On Tuesday, lawyers representing American Farm Bureau Federation and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau began presenting oral arguments before the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. At issue is whether U.S. EPA has the authority to mandate specific means and timeframes to achieve Total Maximum Daily Load goals for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.Given 640 acres per square mile, that's almost a thousand square miles of farmland that will be taken out of production for the TMDL. Who is going to produce the food that those farms produce? Not China.
Those mandates, known as "backstops," would remove about 600,000 acres of Pennsylvania cropland from production, according to EPA projections.
Farm Bureau doesn't dispute that EPA has the right to set general TMDL goals. But the farm organizations contend that the federal Clean Water Act clearly recognizes that states, not EPA, are responsible for deciding the best means and timeframes to meet the watershed implementation plan goals.The Farm Bureau's fight here is with the process, not the need to cut pollution. Could the same cuts in pollution be achieved in other ways? Sure. Require the cities in the watershed to reduce the equivalent of 1000 square miles worth of shit production. Or let the states decide what part of their economy they wish to stifle (which is what the Farm Bureau claims to want).
"EPA calculates that about 600,000 acres of cropland will have to be converted to grassland or forest in order to comply with the agency's regulatory requirements for the Bay watershed," says PFB President Carl Shaffer.
"The lawsuit isn't about giving farmers a free pass," he adds."It's about making sure a government agency is correctly following the law and that the government gets it right, when imposing regulations to improve the Bay."
The farmers would rather take their chance with the politics within their own states. In Maryland, I doubt it matters. The urban/rural division is stacked rather heavily in favor of the urban, who will vote through their representatives to stick it to the farmers rather than accept the burden themselves. It may be otherwise in the more rural Pennsylvania.
My guess is that state politicians would prefer to defer to EPA, so they can avoid pissing off half their constituents.