Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Hearing: WOTUS

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Washington, DC, March 17, 2015 | comments

Remarks as prepared:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the witnesses testifying today.

Our farmers, ranchers and foresters have a great champion in Chairman Thompson. In the 114th Congress, he is once again chairman of the subcommittee that both highlights the important work they are doing and oversees conservation and forestry programs and regulations. 

The men and women who farm, ranch and take care of our forests are committed to making sure that the land they care for will continue to provide food, fiber and timber for future generations. They are the original conservationists and the best stewards of our nation's land.

To help them, Congress has established many voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs to reduce soil erosion and preserve water quality and quantity, starting with the passage of the Soil Conservation Act, which was signed into law 80 years ago.Ensuring the viability and profitability of our nation’s vibrant forests is a priority for this subcommittee, as well as the Agriculture Committee as a whole. Chairman Thompson, whose district includes the Allegheny National Forest and others, is a proven leader and strong advocate on these issues. I share his commitment to maintain and improve the health of all our country’s working forests. 

This subcommittee is tasked with ensuring that Farm Bill conservation programs and policies, such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and the linkage of conservation compliance with crop insurance, are implemented as Congress intended. Members will also oversee USDA and U.S. Forest Service programs, as well as monitor how different regulations affect rural America.

Bottom line:  Under EPA’s proposed rule, every water in the United States can be reached by federal regulators.  The only thing that makes the rule ambiguous is the claim by the EPA and the Army Corps that the rule is not all-encompassing, with the agencies declaring they will use their best professional judgment on when to regulate a water and when they will not.  These assurances hold little comfort for farmers and ranchers who will face steep civil fines for any violation.

For these reasons, I strongly support legislation to block the Waters of the United States rule and hope we can put legislation to this effect on the president’s desk, whether as a stand-alone bill, as part of a larger measure, or both.  The better route, of course, is for EPA and the Corps to pull this regulation, work with state and local stakeholders to develop a new and proper set of recommendations, and submit these recommendations to Congress for consideration and approval.

I look forward to listening to the testimony of our witnesses this morning and yield back the remainder of my time.

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