By Jon Mueller
Concerning your recent article, Chesapeake Bay Lawsuit Pits Environmentalists Against Farmers, (http://www.americanagriculturist.com/story.aspx/chesapeake/bay/lawsuit/pits/environmentalists/against/farmers/9/49759), there are several points we would like to clarify.
First, CBF and its partners do not oppose farming or farmers. Quite to the contrary, CBF and its partners have worked with farmers for years to help them identify and install cost-effective practices that limit farm runoff that harms tributaries to the Bay.
What we do oppose is the American Farm Bureau Federation's attempt to derail a multi-year, multi-jurisdictional process to clean up the Bay that has been agreed to by all of the Bay states, Washington, D.C., and the federal government.
Second, it is important to be clear about what the AFBF and other national lobbying organizations are trying to achieve in federal court. While Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer states in your article that the action is not an effort to stop Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts. But that is exactly what the lawsuit seeks to do. The complaint asks the court to throw out the clean-up goals set by EPA and to stop the states from implementing the individual plans they wrote to achieve those goals.
Estimates indicate that only half Pennsylvania's farmers are in compliance with current laws and regulations. And, Pennsylvania's clean-up plan relies heavily on bringing farmers into compliance — an effort that would be halted if the Farm Bureau has its way.
State compliance efforts are important. While the NRCS study cited in the article did find that many farmers implement some best management practices, it also found that 80% of cropland in the Chesapeake Bay region did not have sufficient practices in place to reduce polluted runoff.
Farm Bureau also argues that the science underlying the pollution limits is flawed. However, leading scientists across the watershed, including Denice H. Wardrop, a Research Scientist at Penn State University, have defended the underlying science, recognizing that it is adequate to determine the amount and distribution of pollution reductions required to achieve clean water in the Bay.
Farm Bureau also argues that EPA exceeded its authority by setting cleanup goals for the Bay. In fact, EPA was required to set those goals as the result of several court orders entered more than a decade ago and by the settlement of CBF's lawsuit against EPA.
Also, the states and EPA had signed agreements saying the Bay would be cleaned up by 2010. When it was realized that this goal would not be met, the states asked EPA to take the lead in setting the new cleanup standards.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has long been committed to helping individual farmers, as well as towns and cities, get the technical assistance and resources they need to reduce pollution and maintain economic viability. From placing technicians in farm communities to seeking federal funds in an effort to offset costs, we have worked with farmers, shoulder to shoulder. We will continue to do so.
And we will continue to ensure that farmers, as well as local governments, sewage treatment plants, homeowners, and others work to reduce pollution so that we can all enjoy clean rivers and streams and a clean Chesapeake. This is the kind of commitment we would like to see from the Farm Bureaus and agribusinesses.
Mueller is CFB's vice president of litigation