Don't Muddy the Water

By Trisha Jackson,, South Dakota State University

Democracy can work if we use it. It doesn’t function well when stakeholders refuse to come to the table, blocking any attempts for compromise.

With the goal of protecting the clean water that we all depend on, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corp of Engineers released a clarification of the Clean Water Act last spring. Since then, industry groups have made it their mission to muddy this rule clarification, painting it as a choice between clean water and a thriving economy with profitable agriculture.

We can have both. But we have to make our voices heard, and participate in democracy.

An example of this is last year’s Food Safety Modernization Act rules. When they were first released by the Food and Drug Administration, they would have spelled the end for many small and organic farms. Because of the efforts of agricultural groups, farmers, and ranchers, the FDA went back to the drawing board to write revised rules that accomplish both goals of safe food and successful farms.

Clean water is essential to agriculture and a thriving economy, just as participation is essential to democracy. The Waters of the U.S. rule still has problems and we still have unanswered questions. As citizens who will be impacted by the rule, it’s our duty to point out these problems, push for our questions to be answered, and work with the EPA and Army Corp to help them understand agriculture in South Dakota. The rule will be better because of it, getting us all closer to the interwoven goals of profitable agriculture and clean water. 

Trisha Jackson is an Assistant Professor of Geography at South Dakota State University.