Here’s an update on news impacting your dairy as we celebrate Thanksgiving 2023.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

WOTUS rule challenges are heading into another year

It was a busy legal year for the Waters of U.S. (WOTUS) rule. That’s likely to continue in 2024.

Dating back more than five decades to provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the WOTUS rule’s interpretation of “navigable waters” has flowed through administrations and courts. Since the proposal of a new rule in late 2021, that hasn’t subsided.

A quick recap of 2023: In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued a preliminary injunction against WOTUS rule enforcement in Texas and Idaho. In April, a North Dakota federal district court issued a preliminary injunction in 24 other states.

On May 25, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision limiting the EPA's authority to regulate U.S. waterways under the CWA. So in Sept. 8, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published an amended final rule attempting to conform with key aspects of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, including an implementation timeline.


However, on Nov. 13, plaintiffs filed amended complaints in three lawsuits challenging the revised WOTUS rule on a number of grounds, including failure to include a comment period when the new rule was to be implemented.

CAFO regulation evaluation planned

Another environmental issue to track in 2024 will be the EPA's evaluation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) program.

Reporting in the November 2023 Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD) newsletter, attorneys Kyle Weldon and Jim Bradbury said the EPA will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the CAFO program, specifically looking at issues addressed in two environmental groups’ petitions.

Those petitions, filed in 2017 and 2022, requested revisions to Clean Water Act regulations for the CAFO program. While the EPA denied the petitions, the EPA announced it would address certain alleged CAFO permitting issues, including seeking greater operator coverage, enhanced monitoring and reporting requirements, and “better” nutrient management plans.

It is estimated that over the next year and a half, the EPA’s advisory subcommittee will meet to review the CAFO program and provide its recommendations to the EPA. The EPA is also expected to conduct its own study, after which, in concert with the subcommittee’s recommendations, the agency will decide whether new rules or enforcement protocols should be implemented as compared with those currently in place.

USDA seeks nominees for National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board

The USDA is seeking nominations for candidates to serve on the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board. Nominees must be active owners or employees of a fluid milk processor.

The deadline for nominations is Jan. 12, 2024. Eight appointed members will serve three-year terms, July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2027.

The USDA will accept nominations for board representation in six geographic regions and two at-large positions. The geographic regions with vacancies are Region 3 (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and District of Columbia), Region 6 (Ohio and West Virginia), Region 8 (Illinois and Indiana), Region 9 (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee) Region 12 (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah) and Region 15 (Southern California).

The other at-large position may be an active owner or employee of a fluid milk processor or a member of the general public.

Nomination forms and information are available on the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board webpage.

In case you missed it

In early November, the USDA began mailing ballots for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) county and urban county committee elections to all eligible agricultural producers and private landowners across the country. Ballots must be returned to local FSA county offices or postmarked by Dec. 4, 2023, to be counted. 

Coming up

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will release the 2022 Census of Agriculture data on Feb. 13, 2024. The ag census, conducted once every five years, was mailed to more than 3 million producers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico late last year. NASS reported a preliminary national data collection return rate of 61%.