Water Quality & EPA's Activities in the Chesapeake Watershed

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a regulation called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which threatens the economic health of businesses, individuals, farms, and communities throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, by setting strict limitations on the amount of nutrients (in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment from going into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

EPA’s TMDL, or a pollution diet – as they call it, is requiring the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to develop and implement Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which outline measurable objectives and provide reasonable assurance to EPA that water quality goals will be met in a specified timeframe. The failure of a state to meet a water quality goal could result in the unprecedented “take-over” of state water regulation by the federal government.

While the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) have filed a lawsuit in federal court to halt EPA on the TMDL, work continues with state and local agencies to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Unfortunately, there are two major hurdles facing the agriculture industry in meeting its portion of the reductions prescribed by the TMDL.

First, numerous Best Management Practices (BMPs) are already in place on farms across the state, but were financed by farmers’ dollars. These BMPs are not accounted for by the scientific model that tracks and measures progress in the Bay watershed. Stated simply, modern technology and current practices to mitigate soil and nutrient runoff are already in place, but farmers are not getting accurate credit for investing to improve water quality. Moreover, if one field has two BMPs in effect (i.e. no-till and cover crops), only one BMP is counted in EPA’s computer model.

Secondly, many BMPs require significant capital expenditures and technical assistance to implement. If the EPA wants to be helpful and provide a leading role, they can do so by assuring that funds are available for Conservation Districts, state agencies and USDA/NRCS for technical assistance on farms to help install and implement practices and technology to reduce nutrient and soil runoff.

Legislative Request:
Farm Bureau calls on Congress to challenge EPA’s science and computer modeling, provide farmers full credit for measures taken to improve water quality and redirect EPA enforcement resources to assistance and BMP funding.