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Hanna joins lawmakers urging EPA to reconsider navigable waters rule change

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is one of more than 230 members of Congress speaking out against a proposed change to the Clean Water Act by the Environmental Protection Agency. He says it would mean farmers in New York will face additional red tape and more fines.

Eric Behling's orchard in Mexico has been in business since 1947. Throughout the year his farm grows apples, pumpkins and other produce.

Behling says that a proposal by the EPA changing how it defines navigable waters would burden farmers like him. Under the proposals, water that collects temporarily in fields or ditches would be subject to the same protections as lakes and streams that can be navigated by boats.

He says farmers are among the last people who need more federal regulations telling them how to care for the earth.

Credit Gino Geruntino / WRVO
Nancy Weber (left) speaks with Rep. Richard Hanna during his recent stop to Behling Orchards in Mexico, NY.

"We as growers, I mean, obviously I want to grow the best food, but I also want to be able to pass it on to my sons and daughters," Behling said. "And to that end, I will make sure that we take care of the land, we take care of the waters that we have to our benefit in this area."

Hanna says that adding these new regulations would cripple the agriculture business in New York. Farmers would have to apply to the EPA for permits to farm or fertilize land considered navigable waters.

"Now they want to say the ditch in front of this farm is essentially a navigable waterway," Hanna explained. "The water off the roof, puddles in your yard. It's a way of saying, I think on their part, that anything that's wet somehow winds up in the ocean and therefore they want to control it."

Hanna says the rule is a severe overreach by the EPA.

"There are plenty of state regulations," Hanna said. "I've been on farms where they have books eight inches thick to manage how they manage their water and how they manage their manure. Farmers are probably the last people on the planet that need to be told how to manage, care for and take care of their property."

Nancy Weber, president of the Oswego County Farm Bureau, says the federal government is attempting to fix a problem that doesn't exist in New York.

"New York's waters are so good in comparison to many places, not only in this country but around the world," Weber said. "We pride ourselves, especially in agriculture, we pride ourselves in keeping the water clean."

Hanna says the fines the EPA could levy if the law is changed have the potential to put some small farmers out of business.

Behling agrees, saying the rule change is misguided.

"I can honestly say, like I've said before many times, we follow all the guidelines that are set out, and we really don't need any more regulation like this," he said. "It's burdensome and it's over-regulating land from a federal level."

Farm bureaus across the region are also opposed to the plan and several county legislatures are planning to pass resolutions against the proposed rule change. Public comments on the rule change will be accepted until July 21.