Newberry Observer

Discussing Ag legislation

NEWBERRY — In this current legislative cycle, there are a few bills that will have a direct impact on agriculture, some that are supported by the Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District and some that are not.

During the NSWCD annual legislative breakfast, Ben Setzler, District chairman, discussed some of these bills and acts.

On the federal side, Setzler discussed the Waters of the United States, something he said came up during the Obama Administration.

“It has been talked about a lot, especially when it went into effect. I believe President Trump has expressed interest in repealing that. That is something farmers, in general don’t like. For the most part we feel like it is a land grab,” Setzler said. “It basically classifies any water source as federal water, whether that be a temporary puddle from a large rain storm, to a creek or pound or anything like that.”

Another federal program Setzler discussed is the Ammonia Monitoring Program, started by the EPA. He said this program was designed for industrial pollution and toxic chemicals so that the entities, like the U.S. Coast Guard, would have an emergency response team ready and know where to go.

“I believe the threshold for beef cows is right around 200 cows on a farm for reporting, we don’t get too many hazmat teams for beef manure. I think it was one of those things where an act was passed, and not all the repercussions were thought through all the way,” Setzler said. “Great to make sure some of these larger industries response teams get there quickly, but farms got swept in it, and I don’t believe that was the intent of the act.”

He added that the NSWCD would like to see an exemption for farmers on that program.

The final federal issue Setzler discussed involved the budget.

“A lot of cuts to the Conservation Stewardship Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program and EPA, 319 grants. All of these are locally led programs, they do not come down from federal government, the money does, but it is utilized on the local level. We feel that programs like that really address local needs, more so than a decision maker out of D.C. saying what the local needs are,” Setzler said. “We would like them to consider those left out of budget cuts, if possible.”

On the State Side, Setzler voiced support for the Wetland Restoration Act.

“That bill, you have an impoundment or dam creating a wetland that has traditionally been there. If the dam or impoundment breaks, and drains that wetland, currently it is very difficult to restore that dam to restore that wetland. This bill makes it easier to do so, 75% of the dam is still there, you can repair it to restore the ecosystem. We support that, and would love to see that passed,” Setzler said.

Staci Henry, with Natural Resources Conservation Service, talked about hemp, which can now be grown in South Carolina, and how NRCS can assist.

“We can help hemp producers, there are stipulations to which they have to be held to. They have to be legal under state law, producers must have an approved industrial hemp license from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the producer must have written proof that the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted by the Agriculture Pilot Program, and they must provide evidence of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency permit for industrial hemp production,” she said.

Ben Setzler, District chairman with NSWCD, talks about legislation that directly impacts agriculture. Setzler, District chairman with NSWCD, talks about legislation that directly impacts agriculture. Andrew Wigger | The Newberry Observer

By Andrew Wigger

Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.