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LICA’s View: The clean water act

LICA has a key role to play in water quality issues.


October 29, 2014
By Bob Clark president LICA National

I am sure that many readers are aware of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed changes to the Clean Water Act (CWA). Anyone who has read the Farm Bureau and EPA websites addressing the issue would have noticed there is no agreement on the impacts the proposed changes will have on farmers and contractors. As LICA national president, and a drainage contractor myself for over 25 years, I thought it was imperative to write a column discussing the issues surrounding both clean water and the CWA.

While the intent of the CWA may be noble, its ambiguous language and complex nature make significant regulatory overreach inevitable. It’s also the primary reason that no one can agree on the implications of the proposed changes. Recently LICA sent a letter to the EPA administrator outlining our concerns. The letter is posted on the LICA website under the government relations tab. I encourage everyone to read it, and to comment on the rule during the open comment period.

LICA is working hard to bring together groups and organizations with common concerns about the CWA for meetings in Washington, D.C. Our goal is to work together to stop any unnecessary regulatory overreach – overreach that could impose burdensome economic costs on the broader agricultural community and actually stifle, not promote, conservation innovation.

With that said, the issue of water quality is a real one. I’m sure you have all noticed that Toledo, Ohio, was making national news with their drinking water, or lack thereof, this summer. Multiple reports have mentioned the role that agricultural runoff may be playing as a contributing factor to this complex problem. Now, more than ever before, I believe that LICA contractors have the opportunity to provide leadership to address clean water challenges. After all, since 1951, our LICA motto has been “Dedicated to the professional conservation of soil and water.”

LICA’s effort is to be as much a part of the solution today as we have been in the past. Many LICA contractors are technical service providers (TSP) to the NRCS in drainage water management (DWM). And LICA contractors have installed thousands of conservation projects across the US to improve water quality and soil health. Our drainage systems reduce erosion and improve soil health while enabling the broader adoption of conservation farming practices like no-till and min-till; our DWM systems go the extra mile to further filter and/or hold-back run-off; and our sub-irrigation systems are going to help America get to 300 bushel corn per acre. We’re helping US farmers renewably and sustainably meet the growing demands of a growing global population, while creating greater American food and energy security.

Simultaneously, our state universities are working to address water quality as well, and many LICA chapters have great relationships with their state universities, all in an effort to further advance knowledge and best practice.

While water quality is a real challenge, we are a real solution. However, our impact is only as great as the number of us who promote and implement best practice. Everyone should be ready to share our past and current conservation efforts with those who don’t know or understand much about what we do or how much we’ve helped to conserve natural resources.

As the population grows, both agriculture and the importance of conservation grow with it. These times pose a great opportunity for every LICA contractor. We can’t let people who don’t understand agriculture and land improvement point the finger of blame. We need to help set the record straight, promote best practice, and educate others about the conservation benefits of our work.


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