EPA Rule Pits Brewers Against Farmers

by | Sep 22, 2014

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BeerA group of small craft beer brewers, including Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, are actively supporting the EPA’s proposed Waters of the US rule, arguing it will help ensure that they have clean water for their products, while farmers who supply beer ingredients say the rule has the potential to massively cut production on their lands, according to The Hill.

The divide has put trade groups for the beer industry in a tough spot as they try to navigate between competing interests.

The EPA proposed the water rule in March, arguing it was needed to clarify the agency’s authority over smaller bodies of water, such as the tributaries that feed into larger lakes and rivers.

For most brewers, the issue comes down to having a protected, unpolluted water supply that doesn’t require treatment on their side.

However, the Farm Bureau has come out against the rule, because it fears the rule could be expensive for many farmers to comply with.

As a whole, barley farmers don’t trust the EPA to manage the water on their farms, according to Doyle Lentz of the National Barley Growers Association. Lentz owns a farm in North Dakota that sends most of its barley to Anheuser-Busch.

Under the EPA’s proposed waters rule, Lentz is concerned the agency could stop him from farming as much as 80 percent of his lands, because at some times of the year they are covered in water.

According to Brett Blankenship of the National Association of Wheat Growers, wheat farmers share the same concerns. According to Blankenship, while all farmers want clean water and do what they can to make that happen, they cannot afford EPA overreach.

Corn and hops growers have weighed in with similar sentiments.

According to a national poll released by the American Sustainable Business Council earlier this year, the majority of small business owners favor federal protection of clean water and agree that clean water is necessary for a healthy economy and job creation.

Photo Credit: Beer via Shutterstock

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