The American Farm Bureau Federation, along with 15 state Farm Bureau organizations and 16 other national and regional ag organizations filed a motion seeking to intervene in a lawsuit this week. The case - Gulf Restoration Network, et al v. Jackson, et al - would force the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to establish numeric water quality standards for all states in the Mississippi River Basin.
Farm Bureau notes that the resolution of the case could have a significant impact on farmers, municipalities and others throughout the 31 state basin because numeric nutrient standards could lead to costly and stringent limits on nutrient runoff to waters that ultimately contribute to the Mississippi River.
In a press statement, AFBF notes that the Clean Water Act allows states to use either "narrative" or "numeric" standards as a method for determining water quality. Most states in the Mississippi River Basin use narrative standards such as "no nutrients at levels that cause a harmful imbalance of aquatic populations." However, if this lawsuit is successful, AFBF says EPA would be forced to override existing state standards with federal water quality standards and to express those standards as specific numeric limits on nutrients.
"Setting appropriate numeric nutrient standards is a complex and difficult scientific undertaking and EPA has proven it is not up to the task," says Bob Stallman, AFBF president. "Farmers have no reason to believe that EPA could establish scientifically defensible standards for any one state, much less for 40% of the U.S. land mass."
There are limited circumstances where the Clean Water Act allows EPA to step in the place of state government and set a federal water quality standard. The organization is seeking to intervene in the lawsuit to clarify those limitiations to the federal District of Louisiana, where the case is being heard.
The following state Farm Bureaus intervened in the lawsuit: Arkansas; Illinois; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; Oklahoma; South Dakota; Tennessee; and Wyoming.