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After growing up on a farm, researcher Jeff Siegfried wants to use technology to make agriculture more efficient. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)
After growing up on a farm, researcher Jeff Siegfried wants to use technology to make agriculture more efficient. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Jeff Siegfried knows just about anything you’d ever want to find out about a 50-acre corn field in northern Colorado.

The 24-year-old easily rattles off the various gadgets he uses to measure soil moisture, plant health, air temperature.

Standing underneath one of his research station’s at a Colorado State University experimental farm, Siegfried is decked out in a CSU green and gold hat and polo shirt. Siegfried studies precision agriculture at the campus in Fort Collins. Siegfried’s corn field will play a vital role in his final thesis, figuring out better, more efficient ways of delivering irrigation water to fields.

“We’re using technology to make better management decisions,” he says. “So we’re putting the right input in the right place, at the right time and in the right amount. The studies have to be conducted in such a way that eventually it’s the technology that we could be using in the field.”

Siegfried’s choice of study, and future career, represents a much larger trend in agriculture. As farms grow more high-tech, they need fewer people to run them. The number of farmers continues to decline, but the output by farms nationwide has stayed steady. We just don’t need as many farmers days, but someone still must develop the technology to make that happen.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on a farm tour in Rocheport, Mo., in 2014 (File: Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media)
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on a farm tour in Rocheport, Mo., in 2014 (File: Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media)

To the chagrin of some of the nation’s largest farm organizations, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday forged ahead with a plan to oversee more of the nation’s waterways, saying it will enforce new pollution rules in all but 13 states covered by an ongoing court case.

On the day the so-called “Waters of the U.S.” rules, or WOTUS, were set to go into effect, the EPA stuck to the deadline, despite a court order issued late Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson put a temporary hold on the rule late Thursday, siding with the 13 states who sued the EPA saying the federal agency was overstepping its authority. Erickson’s ruling means the rules are on hold in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks to reporters while on a farm tour in Rocheport, Mo., in 2014. (File: Kris Husted/Harvest Public Media)
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks to reporters while on a farm tour in Rocheport, Mo., in 2014. (File: Kris Husted/Harvest Public Media)

Some of the nation’s largest farm groups are cheering after a federal judge blocked implementation Thursday of new rules governing water pollution.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson issued a preliminary injunction delaying the rules, which had been set to take effect Friday, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its bounds. Thirteen states sued the agency, seeking to prevent implementation, and Erickson said the “states are likely to succeed in their claim.”

The rules, which grant the EPA authority over some streams and tributaries under the Clean Water Act, are known as the “Waters of the U.S.” rules, or WOTUS. Some in Farm Country have seen them as a federal power grab.

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