Montana Rancher Says Biden Policies Could Have Dire Impact on Beef Supply

A Montana rancher criticized the Biden administration’s climate policies, including a new water restriction, saying they create “more regulation,” and could potentially lead to a decrease in agriculture production.

Last month, the Biden administration announced a new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition, which broadly defines sources of water protected under the Clean Water Act. The updated rule, which the Biden administration said “safeguards” our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health, allows the EPA to regulate wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams and “relatively permanent” waterways.

But, the rule has come under fire from farmers, ranchers and Republican lawmakers who view it as federal overreach. Nearly 200 Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., sent a letter to the EPA, saying the rule would create regulatory uncertainty and confusion.

Dusty Smith, a rancher in northwest Montana, said that was exactly what the new definition has done.

“Is it going to require a government permit to go ahead and fertilize or spray a field? Do you have to wait two or three months when you decide to do two fertilizers or spray a field? … Nobody wants to go through more government tape,” he told Fox News Digital.

Smith also warned that the new rule, along with Biden’s other climate policies, could lead to a decrease in long-term agriculture production.

“If you have a creek going through [your property] and you can’t use it like you have in the past, it just devastates … our grass production, our hay production,” Smith said. “So the number of cows that can be run out of the acres goes down. And so then less beef will be produced in the end.”

Smith said the new water rule is just one way the administration is making it harder for farmers and ranchers to do their jobs.

“It seems like they’re coming up with more government regulations,” he said, adding that the government should focus on incentive-based programs to support the industry in meeting environmental and sustainability goals.

“I think farmers, ranchers are the number one environmentalists out there,” he said, adding that agriculture producers don’t want to spend more on products like fertilizer than they have to. 

The battle over how to regulate America’s water sources stretches back decades, and the Supreme Court is set to hear a case later this spring which will determine which waters qualify as protected wetlands. 

Until then, many farmers and ranchers are in limbo. 

Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota rancher and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), told Fox News Digital last month the rule creates “complete uncertainty” and an “administrative nightmare” for cattle producers. 

NCBA, along with several other associations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Mining Association, have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, challenging the new rule. 

Fox News’ Kristine Parks and Thomas Catenacci contributed to this report.