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News Advance - Bill Aims to Protect Farmers, Workers

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A new bill that will affect farmers is up for debate in the U.S. House of Representatives following its committee referral June 28.

The Preserving Rural Resources Act tries to clarify existing environmental protection regulations, says the bill's author, U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th District.

The bill will protect farmers and agricultural workers from over-regulation by the federal government, enabling them to continue "normal farming activities" such as building an irrigation pond on their private property, according to Hurt.

Hurt said the bill was necessary due to "misinterpretations" of the already-existing Clean Water Act, which regulates the use of land and mandates how it may be modified. Under the current law, those who wish to modify their land outside of the set regulations must apply for special permits granted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hurt said the bill will clarify exemptions for agricultural workers who already exist under the current law, making it easier for them to use and modify their land for farming purposes without having to cut through "federal red tape," a process that can cost thousands in legal fees and take years to complete.

"We have a situation where farmers are literally spending tens of thousands of dollars and taking two or more years to get permission to build ponds on their own land," Hurt said. "And these are farmers who are the finest stewards on the land, and who care very much about the environment. But they are also folks who depend on the land and its precious resources."

Hurt said he introduced the bill after receiving numerous complaints about federal regulations from his constituents in the 5th District.

"The purpose of this is to clarify what I think is already law," he continued.
Hurt's bill was referred by the Water Resources and Environment arm of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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