Important Agricultural Court Cases Get Underway
By Kurt Fuchs, Government Affairs Officer
Over the past couple of weeks, two major legal cases with serious implications for agricultural production in the region and across the country have seen their opening days in court. On Thursday, October 4th the oral arguments in American Farm Bureau Federation v Environmental Protection Agency were heard in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Less than a week later, on October 9th, the trial of Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v Alan and Kristin Hudson got underway at the US District Court in Baltimore.
The AFBF versus EPA Case
At the heart of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) lawsuit against the EPA is their contention that the agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load requirements (limiting nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed goes well beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act. At the heart of AFBF’s arguments are three main points:
1) The Clean Water Act does not authorize EPA to micromanage the manner in which a State addresses water quality;
2) The science and modeling used in EPA’s Bay Model is seriously flawed; and
3) EPA followed a flawed administrative process in developing the TMDL, lacking sufficient information or time for the public to meaningfully review and comment on the Agency’s assumptions, models, and conclusions.
The implications for the agricultural community in the Bay Watershed and throughout the country are enormous. No one is seeking to stop the good work of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay by any means. In fact, the region’s farmers are national leaders in best management practices and conservation tillage methods designed to make nutrient use as efficient as possible with minimal loss of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.
At the end of that first day of oral arguments, Judge Sylvia Rambo told all those present in the courtroom not to expect a quick decision. For updates on the trial visit here.
The Hudson Case
Represented by the University of Maryland Law Clinic, the Waterkeeper’s suit against the small poultry and beef operation run by the Hudson family in Berlin, MD began in 2009 when their local Assateague Coastkeeper contended the farm was discharging nutrients from a pile of poultry litter into a nearby stream.
Despite the fact that the pile was actually biosolids from a nearby municipality and the Hudsons were cleared by the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the University of Maryland Law Clinic simply changed the nature of their suit, saying that nutrients were actually being tracked from the bottom of the Hudsons’ shoes and carried in the dust from exhaust fans.
The case has significant implications for poultry production not only in the region, but for the entire country. Individual farmers and organizations in 28 states and nearly every county in Maryland have sent donations to SaveFarmFamilies.org in order to help offset the tremendous legal bills the family has racked up as a result of the suit.
The trial is expected to last about 3 weeks. For updates on the trial or to donate visit www.savefarmfamilies.org.
Stay tuned for more information as both agricultural cases progress.