Environmental lawsuits that could impact farming in 2012

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The National Corn Growers Association is currently involved in two major pieces of environmental litigation that will likely be decided in federal court in 2012. This could have major implications for future environmental regulations.

Earlier this year, NCGA joined with the American Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural organizations to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay. The farm groups stated the Chesapeake Bay TMDL goes beyond the scope of Clean Water Act authority, that the science used by the agency is flawed and that the regulatory process lacked transparency. The case has been filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania.

The outcome of this lawsuit could establish significant precedent for future water quality regulations throughout the country. Many corn growers are concerned that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL could be used as a blueprint for addressing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff in the Mississippi River Basin and other watersheds. In recent months, EPA has begun to publicly question its own confidence in the agency’s water quality modeling, particularly for establishing localized nutrient allocations.

The second lawsuit involves pesticide registrations and their potential impact on endangered species. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a suit against EPA in 2011 alleging that the agency failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on hundreds of pesticide registrations potentially affecting hundreds of species.

EPA has lost similar cases in recent years and federal judges have often established buffer zones and product restrictions until interagency consultations between EPA, FWS and NMFS could be conducted. NCGA and other agricultural organizations are interveners in the CBD case to ensure that growers have a seat at the table in any potential settlement negotiations.


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