American Farm Bureau joins suit against EPA

A Federal Court says the American Farm Bureau can join in a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate poultry and livestock farms under the Clean Water Act. The Farm Bureau asked to join West Virginia poultry grower Lois Alt, who sued the EPA challenging an order that she obtain a discharge permit for stormwater runoff from her farmyard. According to an American Farm Bureau news release, EPA opposed the Farm Bureaus’ participation arguing that other farmers facing similar EPA demands should file their own lawsuits.

American Farm Bureau General Counsel Ellen Steen says Congress never gave the EPA the regulatory authority in question.

“The heart of it is about EPA’s power to control state and local land use and development decisions,” said Steen, in an interview provided by the American Farm Bureau. “EPA has set a pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay that micromanages what are really local decisions about agriculture versus forestry versus development versus municipalities. These are local decisions. They affect local jobs. They affect local economies. Congress wrote the Clean Water Act to leave that power in state and local hands, so that the people most affected would have the power to make those decisions.”

Alt sued EPA in June after the agency ordered her to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System discharge permit. The order threatens Alt with $37,500 in fines for each time stormwater comes into contact with dust, feathers or dander near her poultry houses. The order also covers small amounts of farmyard manure resulting from normal poultry operations.

The American Farm Bureau says the order represents the latest EPA attempt to regulate non-discharging farmers by unlawfully narrowing the statutory exemption for “agricultural stormwater discharges.” According to the American Farm Bureau news release, EPA maintains that the exemption does not apply to larger farms.

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