Watch the government bureaucrats in December of any year. The Government Accountability Office issued a report (CLEAN WATER ACT –Changes Needed if Key EPA Program if to Help Fulfill the Nation's Water Quality Goals) in late December, 2013, which will put another EPA bull's-eye on farmland and ranch operators and owners.
GAO says "…more than 25 years after Congress amended it [Clean Water Act]…to institute a program to control nonpoint source pollution, a majority of our nation's waters continue to be impaired." GAO says "Major challenges remain for addressing nonpoint source pollution." (Interpretation: too much runoff from farms and ranches.)
The GAO report is important to agriculture because this investigative arm of Congress carries substantial credibility. Too bad this report seems not to understand agriculture and what tillage and animal agriculture is doing to reduce runoff.
Such ignorance is dangerous.
A major error
As noted earlier, you might believe Congress only started 25 years ago to control nonpoint source pollution from agriculture and other sources. I suggest the authors of the GAO report look at Section 208 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act passed in 1972, now known as the Clean Water Act.
Section 208 was drafted to encourage, develop, and implement area-wide waste treatment management plans.
Section 208(j) (1) is an entire section where USDA is authorized and directed to develop programs and enter into contracts "…for the purpose of installing and maintaining measures incorporating best management practices to control nonpoint source pollution for improved water quality…" in states and areas where the administrator believes there needs to be an improvement in water quality standards.
Any checking by GAO on the success of this program? Apparently not!
This is a 103-page report including appendices. Nowhere do I find any recognition that GAO even knows about Section 208.
GAO suggests that Section 319 added to the Clean Water Act in 1987 is the real beginning of dealing with agricultural stormwater runoff issues. Not so.
Ag stormwater exemption
Nor is there any recognition that Congress has specifically said in the same act that agricultural stormwater is specifically exempted from EPA''s permitting controls. The GAO report clearly is an effort to undermine and destroy the agricultural stormwater runoff exemption.
GAO concludes that "The chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters including designated uses of fishing, swimming, and drinking – has stalled largely because nonpoint source pollution has not be controlled."
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