Home > Farm Bureau, State Regulations, Water & Environment > AFBF vs EPA: Chesapeake Situation

AFBF vs EPA: Chesapeake Situation

Since American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman announced that the organization was going to file a suit against the EPA, over the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, several media outlets have begun to try to paint the grassroots organization in a bad light. This could not be further from truth.

I have been dealing personally with TMDL’s, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) since 1992. Through three TMDL’s there have been several constants:

1) Data that led to waterways being listed on the 303d list of impaired watersheds was limited in scope and failed to look at trends over multiple years.

2) Factors listed as to the cause of the impairments were not determined through a scientific process, they were stated at the outset and then science was “created” to support their being a limiting factor.

3) Implementation plans fail to recognize the proactive efforts already in place to address point and non-point source pollution.

4) Agencies assess exorbitant fees to landowners for permits that do nothing and put money, which could be used for addressing the problem, into the state and federal coffers to be wasted.

5) TMDL’s fail to take a holistic approach to solving the problem and through a “blinder” approach lead to causing more negative impacts; environmentally and socio-economically.

Individual family farmers and ranchers do not have the financial resources, or the time to dedicate to seeing that TMDL’s are drafted in a manner that will actually solve the problem. Unlike farmers and ranchers, who take time away to attend hearings out of their own pocket, elitist environmental groups send well paid “legal” and “scientific” representatives.

A sad truth is that most of the government agencies have shifted their resources from on the ground scientists and biologists to computer tapping staff, legal counsel and managers of managers. Due to the lack of in-house science staff, agencies then accept data from elitist environmental groups driven by agendas to return our landscape to pre-man conditions. These well-funded environmental groups then drive the discussions at the hearings and ultimately control the drafting of TMDL’s with a clear absence of common sense and sound science

Membership organizations, like Farm Bureau, are essential for representation and supporting the families that feed our nation.  In a perfect world, participating in hearings should result in an outcome that truly addresses the issue and yields a solution. However, in the real world, the only way to correct erroneous science and onerous regulation is to take TMDL’s to court, present facts and sound science and receive unbiased consideration.

The lawsuit being filed against the EPA IS NOT arguing against improving water quality. Local farmers are actively addressing issues and implementing real solutions and conservation measures to improve water quality. They will continue their work, regardless of what happens in the lawsuit. The lawsuit IS over EPA’s rush to implement a complex prescription that lacks commonsense and scientific validity. Additionally, the lawsuit questions the authority of the EPA. Congress established a STATE driven process that allows for consideration of feasibility and practicality and in this situation, the EPA’s process is top down, with unreasonable federally imposed restrictions and timelines.

It is time to start holding federal agencies, like the EPA, to the process that Congress intended. Stepping on state rights is unacceptable. I for one am very thankful for grassroots organizations, like the American Farm Bureau, for stepping up to the plate and participating in the process so that American farmers and ranchers can do what they do best; efficiently growing and raising healthy and nutritious food, while implementing good stewardship practices so that our natural resources continue to be healthy and productive for future generations.

  1. dan nosbush
    January 14, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    thanks for standing up for commonsense.. we have our own conflick with minn pollution control. see dannosbush.blogspot.com see if I have half a chance. another article in paynesville mn press this week. another article w/in 2 weeks. will be aditions to blog. thank you.

  2. January 14, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    You make some great points. You are absolutely correct when you say that

    “The lawsuit being filed against the EPA IS NOT arguing against improving water quality. Local farmers are actively addressing issues and implementing real solutions and conservation measures to improve water quality. They will continue their work, regardless of what happens in the lawsuit. The lawsuit IS over EPA’s rush to implement a complex prescription that lacks commonsense and scientific validity.”

    I’m from Nebraska, and my uncle is – and my grandfather was – a farmer in Iowa. So I know many farmers personally; plus I spent a month this last summer cleaning John Deere combines for extra cash… Mike Rowe should really do that for an episode of Dirty Jobs.

    However, I think you lack some context regarding the Chesapeake Bay TMDL in particular. Is the Bay TMDL perfect? Heck no. No single person can understand the science. Nobody ever will. But less than perfect science shouldn’t stop us from taking action to clean up the water using a tool like the TMDL. The only reason that the EPA is stepping in is because the states have failed thus far. The Bay States have agreed to reduce pollution to an acceptable level before, and they’ve repeatedly failed to meet their goals. The waters of the Chesapeake have been listed as impaired for years – the fact that the Chesapeake is a rare, national treasure, requires that it receives a high priority for clean up…hence the EPA was sued and they agreed to set a TMDL if the States failed to meet water quality standards by 2010…they failed. The EPA is merely doing what it is required to do under the law – the states are still running the show, but the EPA is finally saying, “this time, there are consequences for failure.”

    The TMDL isn’t easy or cheap for anybody. I’ll be the first to agree that the EPA’s tools aren’t suitable for the job (for example, if goals aren’t met, the options available to the EPA are more or less limited to 402-permits: further restricting discharges, refusing new permits, etc). But without accountability the clean-up efforts will continue to fail, as in the past. The TMDL is a long overdue framework for telling the states that they need to do what they promised to do a long time ago.

    Again, nice post. But neither you or I can possibly capture all the complexities of the Chesapeake TMDL within such limited space.

    • Rebecca
      January 17, 2011 at 7:27 AM

      I agree great post! I also agree that the TMDL is not perfect, but it’s the best that is available. I work in PA Ag and have been involved with the TMDL. The concern I have with the AFBF suit against the EPA is, as mentioned above, that it will be perceived as farmers unwilling to cooperate. That is far from the truth; farmers are more than willing except there are simply not enough support and man hours for the 60,000+ farms in PA.
      The suit argues that in addition to the Bay model not accounting for the conservation practices already being implemented, that the EPA has no jurisdiction to dictate how states are going to address water quality standards. This is true, that is why each state’s DEP had to come up with their own Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) that the EPA approved. I was a little surprised that the PA Farm Bureau jumped on this suit considering how generous and supportive the PA WIP was for agriculture. As of right now, the PA WIP only requires current regulations to be enforced. There may be some changes to CAFO regulations but it’s my understanding that will be nation-wide.
      It is unfortunate that this has come at a time when so many people in agriculture are struggling to stay in business, but this is not a new issue. We are now ~30 years into “Save the Bay”. Everyone including agriculture, municipalities, and all residents need to contribute to decrease pollution to the Bay and people who are doing a good job deserve credit but I am skeptical that suing the EPA will resolve anything.

  1. January 24, 2011 at 12:11 PM

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