Additional permit requirements will only hinder Illinois farmers’ ability to implement important conservation practices, Illinois Farm Bureau’s Lauren Lurkins told officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Environmentally beneficial projects happen each day on the farm without the time consuming, expensive and complicated process of obtaining a 402 and 404 permit,” Lurkins said. “We need to do what we can as a country to streamline the process that farmers need to do to implement such actions.”

Lurkins, IFB’s director of environmental policy, testified Wednesday during a virtual hearing on the definition of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS). The meetings represent the first step in the federal agencies’ plan to rewrite the WOTUS rule — again.

IFB spent years advocating for repeal of the 2015 Obama-era rule, seen as an overreach of power beyond what Congress intended. That rule was repealed and replaced by the Navigable Waters Protection rule under the Trump administration.

Lurkins said IFB believes ephemeral waters and ditches should not be regulated by the federal government. She also said the “significant nexus test did not work” in Illinois.

She also shared farmer frustration over discussing federal water jurisdiction again.

“Every minute we spend re-treading the same ground on this issue, digs deeper divides in farm country between our members and the agencies,” she said. “That is because it takes time away from what we could do to work with the agencies on implementing efforts to improve water quality. We would much rather be spending time with you to discuss successes, challenges, and brainstorming on appropriate next steps to achieve our shared missions.”

The issue has been a priority of IFB for years. Lurkins said the organization plans to submit comments to the Federal Register on the issue, and continue to play an active role throughout the rulemaking process.