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Illinois Farmers Celebrate Supreme Court Ruling on Clean Water Act
Illinois Ag Connection - 06/01/2023

A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has been hailed as a significant victory for Illinois farmers and the agricultural industry. The court's decision pertains to the Biden Administration's interpretation of the Clean Water Act in its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

In the case of Sackett v. EPA, which dates back to 2004, Michael and Chantelle Sackett were prohibited from backfilling their Idaho property with dirt due to its classification as wetlands adjacent to a tributary. The Supreme Court's ruling now clarifies that the Clean Water Act applies only to wetlands that are practically indistinguishable from waters of the United States.

Mark Gebhards, representing the Illinois Farm Bureau, expressed his enthusiasm for the ruling, emphasizing that it eliminates two decades of judicial confusion surrounding the issue. The court's majority opinion established that the Clean Water Act encompasses wetlands with a continuous surface connection to larger bodies of water, making it difficult to discern the boundary between waters and wetlands.

This stricter interpretation contrasts with the Biden administration's WOTUS rule, which required wetlands to have a "significant nexus" with a body of water. The Supreme Court's ruling urges the administration to revisit the rule and issue clearer guidelines that do not burden farmers with unnecessary legal complexities.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. welcomed the court's decision, noting that it is now the law of the land. Guebert called for the Biden administration to issue a revised rule that enables farmers to manage their land without the need for extensive legal support.

The ruling provides much-needed clarity and relief for Illinois farmers, ensuring they can continue their vital work while maintaining compliance with environmental regulations.

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