Monday, February 28, 2011

In lawsuit against Cheaspeake Bay cleanup plan, Farm Bureau has other regions in mind

The Chesapeake Bay region has rarely attracted much interest from the nation's largest farm group, but now the American Farm Bureau Federation is suing to block the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to limit pollution runoff into the bay. The lawsuit argues the "bay's cleanup is the responsibility of the six states in the region and that the EPA does not have the authority to establish a "pollution diet" that will cost taxpayers and farmers billions of dollars by the time it is fully implemented in 2025," Darryl Fears of The Washington Post reports. In January we reported Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman claimed the regulations would "ruin agriculture in the region" and "become a model for similar environmental restrictions nationally."

"The farm lobby has made it clear it sees the cleanup effort as a harbinger of more far-reaching EPA requirements across the country, including in the Mississippi River basin, where chemical runoff from industrial farms is swept to the Gulf of Mexico," Fears writes. Farm Bureau also alleges EPA's science behind the decision is flawed and the agency did not allow adequate time for public comment about the proposal. An EPA spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit but told Fears "restoring the bay to health will help local economies and encourage recreational activities."

"Environmentalists are concerned that the Farm Bureau is focusing on the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay watershed because of its broader interests in the Midwest," Fears writes. Don Carr, a spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, sees the lawsuit as a warning to stay away from the Mississippi River Basin and giant farms around it. "I agree that this is motivated by the national Farm Bureau's issues elsewhere," Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., told Fears. "The Chesapeake Bay just happens to be the place where [regulations] are being implemented now." (Read more)

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