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October 28, 2010

Federal Water Control Bill Is Bad News for Agriculture

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

Legislation that’s billed as “regional” could have an impact on farmers and ranchers around the country. 

AFBF’s Johnna Miller reports.

Miller: Why are farmers and ranchers throughout the nation concerned about legislation called the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act? 
Don Parrish (AFBF Water Regulation Specialist): It’s going to impact the entire nation and it is a fundamental change to the Clean Water Act. Right now the Clean Water Act operates on the premise that EPA helps bring good scientific information to the table.  This bill will shift that to one in which it takes away the authority of states to address local concerns.  Right now states are able to balance environmental protection and the need for jobs and the ability to build roads and schools and hospitals.  It balances all of that with the environment.  This is going to put EPA in the driver’s seat and I’m afraid all the things that we want to balance are going to go out the window.
Miller: American Farm Bureau Water Regulation Specialist Don Parrish this approach is not the best way to protect water quality.
Parrish: There’s no doubt that water quality is an extremely high priority.  More needs to be done.  No one can argue against that.  The point is, are the solutions found in a one-size-fits-all federal government mandate or does that need to be addressed at the state and local level where site-specific, very precise approaches can be taken. We think this ought to be addressed at the level closest to the problem. 
Miller: Many think that advocates for the legislation will make a last ditch effort to pass it in the lame-duck session after the election, but Parrish believes it would be better to address these issues during the next Congress.
Parrish: We think the next session of Congress we’re going to be debating a new farm bill.  We’re going to be debating conservation provisions to that farm bill.  We’re going to be debating a whole host of issues and we think that that’s going to be a more appropriate avenue to address this issue. 
Miller: Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller: We have two extra actualities with AFBF Water Regulation Specialist Don Parrish.  In the first extra actuality he explains why the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act would be so burdensome for farmers and ranchers.  The cut runs 30 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Parrish: The reason this is going to be burdensome is that states are right now working within their state processes to identify conservation practices that they want farmers to implement.  Many states are doing that through nutrient management plans and they’re working with their farmers and ranchers on how to do that.  This is going to put EPA in the driver’s seat.  It’s going to put litigation in the mix on how stringent those plans are. It could come down to ultimately EPA and litigation telling farmers how to farm. 
Miller: In the second extra actuality Parrish says there is better legislation out there to address water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay.  The cut runs 16 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Parrish: There’s an alternative piece of legislation to what Mr. Cardin has proposed that has been introduced by Congressman Holden, Congressman Goodlatte.  We’d sure like to see a Senate companion version to that and it is one in which EPA is forced to work with states and farmers to come up with a better solution. 
Miller: Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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