Idaho farms and ranches live on access to water, but a new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could add another barrier between producer's and water resources.
The EPA is considering a change to the Clean Water Act (CWA). Currently, it protects waters considered “navigable.” That word would not make the revised change.
"The more it seems we try to improve and have better water quality and better air quality, the more rules and regulations are places upon us," said Kent Mann, who operates a farm and a feedlot in Parma.
The new rule makes operating water unclear and has confused ranchers with how far the CWA protections extend.
"It could affect the waters from the Mississippi to the mud hole in your backyard," said Mann.
The Idaho Cattle Association offered some clarification.
"For the first time ever it includes ditches,” said Britany Hurst, a spokeswoman for the ICA. “[That includes] irrigation ditches, roadside ditches, and storm water run-off."
If implemented, farmers will need EPA permits to use previously unregulated water.
"Our cost to produce, whether it's vegetables or it's meat, becomes more burdensome every day, mostly because the rules and regulations placed upon us," Mann added.
Those costs would trickle down to consumers buying food at the grocery store. It's a headache many farmers and ranchers want to avoid.
"Rules and regulations have their place,” Mann said. “But they're becoming almost too confining"
The EPA is currently doing a 90 day environmental study on the new rule, as well as seeking public comment.
On Your Side will stay on top of the latest developments that happen with this potentially extensive rule.