December 1, 2023

Ricketts, Rounds Lead Legislation to Fight Biden’s Latest WOTUS Overreach

December 1, 2023

OMAHA, NE – This week, U.S. Senators Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced the Farmers Freedom Act of 2023 to fight the Biden administration’s latest Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule overreach. The bill would provide regulatory certainty to farmers, ranchers, and landowners by protecting the definition of prior converted cropland (PCC).

“The Biden administration continues to burden American agriculture with onerous rules,” said Senator Ricketts. “Producers need relief, not regulation. I’m pleased to support this effort to bring certainty to landowners and prevent more big government overreach.”

“For far too long, South Dakota producers have been subject to a number of complex and burdensome WOTUS rule changes,” said Senator 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.”

“Nebraska Farm Bureau thanks Senators Ricketts, Rounds, Thune, Marshall, Cramer, Hoeven, Hyde-Smith, Braun and Barrasso for introducing the Farmers Freedom Act,” said President, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation Mark McHargue. “Codifying into law the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule guidelines as it relates to prior converted cropland is the right thing to do for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. The five-year milestone used in this legislation provides needed flexibility and eliminates regulatory uncertainty for circumstances outside a farmer’s control. Requiring the five-year gap will ensure farmers can continue using their land to produce food, fuel, and fiber for the world, without fear they will lose that option from a temporary inability to produce crops on their land.”

The Farmers Freedom Act of 2023 is cosponsored by Senators John Thune (R-SD), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Barrasso (R-WY), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).


For the last several decades, wetlands converted to cropland before 1985 have remained exempt from WOTUS regulation. The Biden administration’s new WOTUS rule changes that. Instead, PCC could revert to a wetland status if it is unavailable for commodity production or used for another non-agricultural purpose. For example, if a section of PCC floods and is unable to produce commodities, Biden’s rule would subject it to regulation under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

Ricketts has fought efforts by both the Obama and Biden administrations to expand WOTUS when he was Governor and in the Senate. Earlier this year, Ricketts hammered Michael Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over the new, overreaching WOTUS rule. Ricketts alsovoted to block the Biden administration’s expanded rule. He previously criticized the Biden administration’s latest rule following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. EPA that struck down the EPA’s definition of “waters.”