Minot (N.D.) Daily News

Legislation would protect farmers, ranchers, landowners from costly federal overreach


WASHINGTON – Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, in late 2023 introduced the Farmers Freedom Act of 2023, legislation led by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-SD, to provide regulatory certainty for farmers, ranchers and landowners.

The legislation would codify the definition of prior converted cropland (PCC) from the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. For the last several decades, wetlands converted to cropland before 1985 have remained exempt from regulation under the Clean Water Act and Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

Under the Biden administration’s expanded WOTUS rule, PCC could revert to a wetland status if it is unavailable for commodity production. Specifically, if a section of PCC floods and is unable to produce commodities, it could be subject to regulation under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

“Our producers know their lands best and are better stewards of their land than bureaucrats in Washington. This legislation is about respecting private property rights and providing our agriculture producers with flexibility and certainty regarding their lands,” said Hoeven. “The Biden administration’s new WOTUS rule is a costly federal overreach and we’re doing all we can to stop these unworkable mandates.”

“For far too long, South Dakota producers have been subject to a number of complex and burdensome WOTUS rule changes,” said Rounds. “While past administrations have issued problematic WOTUS rules, the previous Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) worked to protect owners of prior converted cropland from undue regulation while providing producers with needed flexibility. This legislation seeks to restore this definition of PCC and prevent further overreach on South Dakota farmers and ranchers, who know their land better than any D.C. bureaucrats.”

In addition to Hoeven and Rounds, the Farmers Freedom Act of 2023 is cosponsored by Senators John Thune, Pete Ricketts, Roger Marshall, Mike Braun, John Barrasso, Kevin Cramer and Cindy Hyde-Smith.