Friday, November 6, 2015

PA Farm Bureau Joins U.S. Supreme Court Challenge To Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

The PA Farm Bureau announced Friday it has joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of agricultural and builder groups in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a federal court decision that upholds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
“We disagree with a lower court’s decision that provides EPA the authority to supersede land use decisions typically made by states located in the watershed,” said PFB President Rick Ebert.  “EPA’s plan does much more than set a cap level of daily loads through its one-size-fits-all approach; it displaces powers reserved to states by setting specific timelines and actions to attain the plan’s goals.”
Farm Bureau notes that EPA’s plan will adversely affect farm families, local communities and rural economies.  Federal officials have also indicated that the agency’s effort in the Chesapeake Bay to impose extreme land use control through a TMDL will also be attempted in other major watersheds across the nation.
In addition, EPA has projected that roughly 20 percent of all cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will have to be removed from food production and be converted to grassland or forest in order to achieve its water quality goals.
“Placing more than 600,000 acres of the watershed’s fertile farmland into retirement will significantly weaken local communities and local food systems," added Ebert.  "Meanwhile, a recent study and analysis suggest that EPA’s approach is largely inefficient in attaining reduction goals, and recommends a more localized effort to best use Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars in reducing nutrient and sediment loss."
PFB has actively worked with state and federal officials to find a feasible way for Pennsylvania to meet its water quality goals, while Farm Bureau continues to work with officials to find a way for farmers to receive full credit for conservation practices that are effectively preventing runoff, but not recognized by EPA.
“EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model has been flawed since day one.  It fails to account for a vast amount of voluntary best management practices (BMPs) installed by farmers to improve the environment and water quality.  By failing to account for those on-farm BMPs, EPA incorrectly concludes that Pennsylvania farms are responsible for more nutrient runoff than what actually enters a water source,” concluded Ebert.
Reaction-- CBF-PA
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker issued this statement after the American Farm Bureau Federation, other agriculture lobbying organizations, and the National Association of Homebuilders requested the Supreme Court to review their challenge to Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.
In December, 2010, the Bay jurisdictions and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. The states developed individual plans to achieve those limits, with a goal of 60 percent implementation by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. In addition, the states committed to taking specific actions in two-year increments called milestones. Together, the limits, plans, and milestones make up the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and represent what many consider the moment in time for clean water.
Within weeks of the announcement, the Farm Bureau and its allies filed suit in federal court claiming EPA over-reach. After losing in federal District Court, they appealed to the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. That court agreed with the lower court and rejected the Farm Bureau’s claims.
“The Farm Bureau and Homebuilder’s decision to seek Supreme Court review of their challenge to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was both predictable and sad.  For years, the agricultural and homebuilder lobbying groups have opposed efforts to restore the Bay.
“The agriculture and development industries need to accept that the Blueprint is the best hope for restoring water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.  Their continued reluctance in the face of overwhelming public support stands in stark contrast to the efforts of thousands of farmers and homeowners who have taken action, many at their own expense, to move the Bay clean-up efforts forward. Additionally, these industries should support the Blueprint, if not for water quality, at least for the economic benefits of implementing the Blueprint, conservatively estimated to be an additional $22 billion annually according to a study commissioned by CBF.
“We believe that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the significant factual and legal support for Bay restoration efforts and deny this petition.“
Click Here for more background on this legal challenge from CBF.
Related Stories:
PA Farm Groups: Initiative To Credit Farmers For Their Conservation Efforts Begins

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