Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chesapeake Farmers Fear Regulation

On small farms, everything is coming up regulators
If you want to know what the greatest threat to farmers is, ask a farmer. On the home page of the West Virginia Farm Bureau ( is a half-hour video of a speech given by Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, at its annual meeting in Nashville in January. I recommend you watch it. Stallman identifies many threats to farmers, particularly small family farmers.

Estate taxes are an issue. They can and do force family farmers to sell the farm instead of passing it on to the next generation. Another issue is child labor laws. Last year the U.S. Department of Labor proposed new regulations putting restrictions on what jobs young people could do on farms. While proponents claimed that these new regulations were aimed at the big guys, the outcry from small family farmers persuaded regulators to reverse course — for now.

Two issues noted by Stallman affect us right here in the Eastern Panhandle and both are related to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. According to him, the Environmental Pprotection Agency “claims the power to set federal limits on nutrients on each and every farmer regardless of cost or feasibility.” He asserts that the Food and Drug Administration has overstepped its authority and that it is the states involved that have jurisdiction.
It's that "regardless of cost or feasibility" thing that gets people.  Everybody understands that with some sacrifices, you can make things cleaner, but you can't make things infinitely clean without it costing a lot of money.  And EPA has no intention of paying that money; they intend to make the farmers do it. And I think he meant EPA instead of FDA.
According to local farmers I have talked to, the WIP will have a substantial adverse impact on local farming; one angry farmer I spoke with went so far as to say that he believed the goal is to eliminate all animal agriculture in the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Certainly, the most extreme environmental activists in the Chesapeake Bay region would not cry if most of the farms on the eastern Shore abandoned their fields and chicken farms, and moved to Baltimore and went on the dole.  Beggars are easier to please.

The other issue related to the Chesapeake Bay involved the Alts, owners of the Eight is Enough poultry farm in Hardy County. In November 2011, the EPA determined that rainwater falling on their property constituted commercial discharge and required a Clean Water Act permit, threatening fines of up to $37,500 per day. This constituted a new interpretation of existing point source pollution regulations. Rainwater has not previously been defined as discharge from operations. The EPA contended that dust and feathers that could be washed away by rainwater could wind up in the Mudlick Run, some 200 yards away. Lois Alt filed suit against the EPA challenging its ruling. The state Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau Federation were granted intervener status over the objections of the EPA. However, in what the Farm Bureau described as a “stunning move,” the EPA withdrew its order this past December.
That's an interesting view of the case, but it is also in line with the more recent case of the Accotink watershed in Fairfax County, Virginia, where the EPA tried to regulate water as a pollutant (in an attempt to stop pollution from sediment carried by the water, which was recently overturned by a federal court, and the EPA deciding not to appeal 

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