State Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, the Republican nominee for Georgia Agriculture Commissioner and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment, took the lead late last week in sending a letter to Georgia’s two U.S. Senators urging them to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ Proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule revision.
The letter to Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) says the new rule will “significantly expand the definition of ‘navigable waters’ and place extensive regulatory burdens on farmers, producers, and consumers who contribute to Georgia’s number one industry.”
It was signed by several Georgia Senators and leading members of the Agriculture Industry across the state of Georgia and urges Ossoff and Warnock to publicly oppose the revision of the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act by the Biden Administration.
“As you know, Agriculture is our state’s number one industry—contributing roughly $74 billion annually to Georgia’s economy,” the letter states. “One in seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry, or related fields. Agriculture and Forestry industries constitute Georgia’s primary land use, with 22 million acres of private working forests and over 10 million acres of operating farmland operated by hundreds of thousands of hardworking Georgians across the state. These are the facts and faces that will be directly impacted-day in and day out-by this overreaching rule revision.”
According to the letter, the revision diminishes clarity provided by the previous administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) by reverting to case-by-case determinations. “By returning to the pre-2015 regulatory definition, it gives the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers unilateral discretion and authority to decide an area’s status.”
The letter goes on to say that. the pre-2015 rule “leaves producers with tremendous uncertainty, whereas the NWPR provided our industry with clearly defined parameters without the threat of government overreach. This subjectivity will result in increased inspections, force our producers to hire additional lawyers, and create a regulatory backlog and wait times with additional permitting and paperwork—unnecessarily burdening an industry that is already overregulated.”
Those sending the letter concluded by saying, “The future success of our state’s number one industry-and Georgia’s overall economy-will directly be impacted by this decision, and I strongly encourage you to act swiftly on this matter.”
Among those signing the letter were:
● State Representative Lynn Smith, Chairwoman of the Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment
● State Representative Robert Dickey, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs
● Georgia Agribusiness Council
● Georgia Cattlemen’s Association
● Georgia Farm Bureau
● Georgia Forestry Association
● Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association
● Georgia Poultry Federation