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John Block: EPA Overreach

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

There they go again. The EPA has threatened to impose a fine of $37,500 per day on farmer Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Mr. Johnson’s offense is that he built a pond for his horses and cattle on his eight-acre property. Before building it, he obtained a permit from the State as required. Never mind, the EPA said he violated federal law by constructing a dam on Little Six Mile Creek which runs through his farm; even though stock ponds are specifically excluded from the Clean Water Act.

The Creek is a tributary which feeds into the Green River. So what. When you get a rain even the ditches feed into the river.

I can relate to this. When I was a young boy, my dad built a dam which collects water. We’re never short of water for our hogs now. As a boy, I used to ice skate on the pond in the winter and fish the pond in the summer. There are geese on the pond to this day. I have other friends that have farm ponds.

I think Mr. Johnson’s pond is good for the environment as my farm pond is. Mr. Johnson points out that his pond provides water for not just his horses but also for eagles, moose, and other wildlife. Former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer Ray Kagel said the “water flowing out of Mr. Johnson’s pond is three times cleaner than the water entering it according to lab tests.” That is because the sediment settles in the pond and clean water flows on.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that the pond was permitted and constructed in compliance with State law. “The Actions of the EPA have been heavy-handed.”

After months of negotiations, Mr. Johnson filed a lawsuit against the EPA to save his farm pond. He said, “We’re going to fight them all the way.”

As I speak, the EPA is in the process of pushing new regulations to expand their jurisdiction over more of our private property. Will they succeed or can we hold our ground?

Happy Labor Day – hats off to the working man!

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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