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A provision of the Clean Water Act establishing a program regulating the discharge of dredge or fill material into the nation’s waters. Permits for individual dredge or fill activities are issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, subject to guidelines prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency. Primarily because this program can impact economic development by restricting the filling of wetlands, it has been controversial. It applies to agricultural, as well as non-agricultural lands. However, normal farming operations, silviculture, and ranching activities—such as plowing, cultivating, and minor drainage, and the construction and maintenance of farm and stock ponds, irrigation and drainage ditches, and farm and forest roads—are exempted by law from the permit requirements of this program. In addition, Section 404 authorizes "general permits" for certain activities, including several agricultural ones, so that individual landowners need not apply for a permit. For example, there are general permits for cranberry bogs and for rice culture.

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