Henry County farmer: Clear WOTUS definition needed

Proposed Clean Water Rule should provide clarity, help farmers plan and install projects to enhance water and soil quality.

After implementing numerous conservation practices on his Henry County farm, Tom Hitzhusen is well aware of the benefits and expense of water and soil conservation. That's why he said the proposed Clean Water Rule is so important. “The energy and focus should be helping producers plan and install practical and effective projects to enhance soil and water conservation rather than creating more layers of bureaucracy.” (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Deana Stroisch

Being a good steward of land and wildlife was a high priority for Ernest Hitzhusen. And it continues today through his son, Tom.

“I have adopted that same passion to ensure that my farming practices are sustainable, productive, efficient, environmentally friendly and capable of leaving the land better than I found it,” said Tom Hitzhusen.

Over the years, Hitzhusen has implemented many different conservation practices on his Henry County farm, including grass waterways, filter strips along the streambeds and no-till farming.

He also eliminated fall nitrogen applications, reduced NPK rates and split application of nitrogen with stabilizers. He’s also planted shelterbelts, prairie grass and cover crops, and established pollinator plots, among other things.

“Adoption of these practices has resulted in higher yields and higher quality grain to help feed a growing population while utilizing lower rates of fertilizer and chemicals plus reduced soil erosion and nutrient loss and improved soil health,” he said.

Hitzhusen told FarmWeek it’s essential for farmers to have a clear definition of “waters of the United States.” The 2015 rule, he said, created uncertainty surrounding the jurisdiction of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Army Corps of Engineers and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The complexity, duplication and confusion that resulted from having three different government agencies attempting to direct the programs governing water conservation projects was unworkable,” he said. “The time and cost required to install these projects increased significantly, which will discourage producers like myself from installing much-needed projects. More money was being spent and fewer projects were installed — that’s counterproductive.

“The energy and focus should be helping producers plan and install practical and effective projects to enhance soil and water conservation rather than creating more layers of bureaucracy.”

Hitzhusen shared his story in support of the proposed Clean Water Rule and he encouraged other farmers to submit written comments as well.

“We need more producers to share their experiences so that our collective voice will have an impact on getting this issue resolved.”

To submit comments, text “WATERS” to 52886 or email Lauren Lurkins at LLurkins@ilfb.org for help filing substantive comments. The comment deadline is April 15.

icon_