Ag groups appeal Chesapeake TMDL ruling

Published on: Oct 8, 2013

Agricultural groups formally appealed a Sept. 13 court decision that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's right to institute Total Maximum Daily Load nutrient requirements for the entire Chesapeake Bay.

Called a "pollution diet" by those who oppose it, TMDL would allow for EPA, rather than states, to determine how much and what levels of nutrients could be allowed in the 64,000-square-mile watershed.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the major plaintiff in the suit, said they are seeking a reversal of a decision that gives EPA wide latitude to dictate local land-use and development decisions.

“This is a wrongly decided case that has dangerous implications for farmers and many others in the Chesapeake Bay area and nationwide,” said AFBF president Bob Stallman. “This case isn’t about whether or not to protect the Chesapeake Bay – we all share that goal. This case is about whether EPA can dictate where farming will be allowed, where homes can be built, and where businesses can be established. By taking over decisions like that, EPA has turned the whole concept of cooperative federalism out the barn door.”

AFBF seeks an appeal to preserve the primary role of states in setting land use policy and determining how to achieve water quality goals, the group said. According to AFBF, the Clean Water Act puts states in the drivers’ seat to determine how farmers, builders, homeowners and towns will share the responsibility of achieving clean water. EPA’s framework puts EPA in control of those decisions.

“Win or lose on appeal, farmers and ranchers will continue their dedicated efforts on the farm to improve water quality and the natural environment,” said Stallman. “In the meantime, AFBF will continue to oppose what we see as a remarkable power grab.”

The National Corn Growers Assn., also joined the appeal. NCGA president Martin Barbre said the organization understands and supports the need to protect water quality but we don’t support a wrongfully decided case when it has a profoundly negative impact on agricultural production and innovation.   

“We continue to believe the policies and science behind Chesapeake Bay TMDL are wrong and that it goes beyond the scope of Clean Water Act authority," Barbre said. "We hope the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will reconsider these arguments and ultimately provide state and local jurisdiction more flexibility to work with agriculture in meeting water quality goals.”