Hoeven, Rounds Introduce Legislation to Protect Farmers, Ranchers and Landowners from Federal Overreach

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven this week introduced the Farmers Freedom Act of 2023, legislation led by Senator Mike Rounds, to provide regulatory certainty for farmers, ranchers and landowners.  The legislation would codify the definition of prior converted cropland (PCC) from the Trump administration’s Navigable Wates Protection Rule. For the last several decades, wetlands converted to cropland before 1985 have remained exempt from regulation under the Clean Water Act and Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Under the Biden administration’s expanded WOTUS rule, PCC could revert to a wetland status if it is unavailable for commodity production. Specifically, if a section of PCC floods and is unable to produce commodities, it could be subject to regulation under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

“Our producers know their lands best and are better stewards of their land than bureaucrats in Washington. This legislation is about respecting private property rights and providing our agriculture producers with flexibility and certainty regarding their lands,” said Hoeven. “The Biden administration’s new WOTUS rule is a costly federal overreach and we’re doing all we can to stop these unworkable mandates.”

“For far too long, South Dakota producers have been subject to a number of complex and burdensome WOTUS rule changes,” said Rounds. “While past administrations have issued problematic WOTUS rules, the previous Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) worked to protect owners of prior converted cropland from undue regulation while providing producers with needed flexibility. This legislation seeks to restore this definition of PCC and prevent further overreach on South Dakota farmers and ranchers, who know their land better than any D.C. bureaucrats.” 

In addition to Hoeven and Rounds, the Farmers Freedom Act of 2023 is cosponsored by Senators John Thune, Pete Ricketts, Roger Marshall, Mike Braun, John Barrasso, Kevin Cramer and Cindy Hyde-Smith.

This legislation is the latest in Hoeven’s work to protect private property rights and push back on the Biden administration’s efforts to advance an expanded WOTUS rule, which imposes unworkable mandates, burdensome new permitting requirements and compliance costs on landowners, energy and agriculture producers and other industries. Accordingly, the senator:

  • Helped introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which Congress passed, to rescind the expanded WOTUS rule. The resolution was subsequently vetoed by President Biden.
  • Helped introduce legislation in the 117th Congress to codify the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which replaced the 2015 Obama WOTUS rule.
    • Hoeven previously worked to advance the NWPR, following his efforts to defund WOTUS in 2015 and 2016 and prevent its implementation.
  • Urged the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Sackett v. EPA to preserve state authority to regulate local waters and lands.