fb - voice of agriculture
The Ag Agenda

February 2011

EPA’s Regulatory Diet is Unhealthy for Agriculture


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Benjamin Franklin once said that he was a “mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power.” Because of this philosophy shared by all of our founding fathers, America enjoys the freedom of democracy and a fine balance between federal authority and state rights.

Unfortunately, some very important state rights have come under attack recently by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is threatening to expand federal control over the Chesapeake Bay region. For that reason, the American Farm Bureau Federation filed a lawsuit in federal court last month to halt EPA’s pollution regulatory plan for the Chesapeake Bay.

Putting the Skinny on States

You may ask why farmers and ranchers nationwide should be concerned with the Chesapeake Bay region. Simply, this new EPA approach will not end with the Chesapeake Bay. EPA has already revealed its plan to follow suit in other watersheds across the nation, including the Mississippi watershed. That is why our legal effort is essential to preserving the power of the states – not EPA – to decide whether and how to regulate farming practices in America’s watersheds.

EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load dictates how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment can be allowed into the Bay and its tributaries from different sources. EPA’s plan is built on inaccurate assumptions and flawed data. Further, the agency failed to provide the public with critical information about the basis for the TMDL and allow sufficient time for the public to comment on the incomplete, but highly technical, information that EPA did provide. In addition, EPA’s plan overreaches its legal authority by dictating to states how and when they must achieve water quality goals, regardless of costs.

EPA likes to call the TMDL a “pollution diet,” but this diet threatens to starve agriculture out of the 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed. The agency’s diet would unlawfully micromanage state actions and the activities of farmers, homeowners and businesses within the six-state watershed, imposing specific pollutant allocations on activities such as farming and homebuilding, sometimes down to the level of individual farms.

It seems that a government by the people for the people is becoming out of fashion. It was Thomas Jefferson who said that “the greatest calamity which could befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers.

Fattening up the Government

This lawsuit is not about whether farmers will work to achieve clean water. Like all Americans, farmers want a clean Chesapeake Bay. They are already working throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and across the nation to implement real, on-the-ground conservation measures to improve water.

Regardless of what happens with this lawsuit and EPA’s diet, farmers will continue their good stewardship efforts. This lawsuit is about whether EPA alone can dictate how we accomplish a cleaner watershed and at what cost.

I know who I trust in that scenario – America’s farmers and ranchers, who, day after day, are the true environmentalists. Farm Bureau is standing behind our farm and ranch families.