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.