How the EPA’s ‘WOTUS’ Rule Could Lead to Expensive Fines or Jail for Farmland Owners

by | Sep 22, 2022 | Indiana Agriculture News, News Feed

Imagine being fined $37,000 dollars a day or being threatened with jail time over sinkholes or standing bodies of water on your farmland! It could happen as part of the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule, or WOTUS for short. Those fines could be imposed by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s why one southern Indiana farmer has traveled to Washington D.C. with Indiana Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee to address the issue with lawmakers.

“I feel like the Waters of the U.S. are getting pretty well muddied up at this point,” said Theresa Gottbrath, who farms near Pekin in Washington County. She’s referring to WOTUS – which involves regulations of “navigable bodies of water” to protect drinking water supplies. Those regulations have included ditches, drainages and low spots on farmlands and pastures.

The enforcement of those regulations, as well as a specific and universal definition of “navigable bodies of water”, have varied recently from one Presidential administration to the next. The lack of clear rules on clean water has caused some confusion and frustration for farmers.

“We have sinkholes on our farm, and those are things that we cannot control,” said Gottbrath. “We have a creek that runs through half of our farm, and all of those things that are happening on our farm, whether it’s a barn that’s been built that might have run-off or sinkholes, might lead to some sort of a citation that we might get served.”

Theresa Gottbrath, who farms near Pekin in Washington County, addressed her concerns over the EPA’s “WOTUS” rule with Indiana legislators in Washington D.C. as part of the Indiana Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. Photo: C.J. Miller / Hoosier Ag Today.

That’s why Theresa and others with the Women’s Leadership Committee with Indiana Farm Bureau are sharing their stories with Indiana’s lawmakers so they don’t find themselves paying hefty fines or facing criminal charges.

“If we’re not given the support that we would need to be able to have clarity with how these particular laws are going to be implemented, we need that support so we won’t be fined and we won’t be served citations regarding something that what might be happening on our farms,” said Gottbrath.

Coming up on October 3, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case from Idaho specific to the WOTUS rule. That decision, which is expected early next year, will ultimately impact the direction of what happens with the EPA’s WOTUS rule.

Click HERE to read the impact of the WOTUS rule on farmers from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Click BELOW to hear C.J. Miller’s report how the EPA’s ‘WOTUS’ rule could lead to expensive fines or jail for farmers.

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