Farm-Impacting Lawsuits Could be Settled in 2012

National Corn Growers talk about two suits - both with EPA - and what they might mean.

Published on: Dec 28, 2011

The rising amount of litigation requires farmers and farm groups to play along or get bull-dozed by special interests who can lobby administration officials to achieve an array of outcomes. While not a new phenomenon, in the Obama Administration, a move to court may be the best move at all.

Here's a look at the two key lawsuits the group believes could be settled in 2012:

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.

NCGA notes that 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. How this shapes up remains to be seen, but the lawsuit could set new ground rules for this type of regulation.

The second lawsuit NCGA is involved with, covers pesticide registrations and their potential impact on endangered species. The Center for Biological Diversity 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.

It looks like 2012 is already shaping up to be an interesting year.


Add Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    The previous commenter did not read the article very closely... The phrase at the beginning of the article says "special interests who can lobby administration officials to achieve an array of outcomes." The "administration officials" in this particular phrase are the administration officials at EPA. The "special interests" in this phrase are groups that lobbied EPA to establish the Chesapeake Bay watershed's many TMDLs at the national EPA level, rather than allowing the affected states' environment agencies to do so and then have those state-developed TMDLs approved by EPA (which is the usual process.) Overall, the article is addressing two cases that are two different types of litigation where National Corn Growers Association has chosen to become involved. The first is direct litigation. That case challenges the decisions made by the "administration officials" of the EPA. The challenge is to the Chesapeake Bay watersheds' numerous TMDLs that were written by EPA and imposed on state governments from the national EPA office. The article describes the issues, which are whether EPA overstepped its CWA authority, the science used by EPA to write its numerous TMDLs for the Chesapeake watershed, and the transparency, or lack thereof, of the process. The article addresses a second type of participation in litigation -- being an intervenor. National Corn Growers petitioned the court to intervene in a lawsuit that was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (an environmental "special interest") against the EPA. The article stated that EPA has lost these lawsuits in the past. By intervening in the current lawsuit, farm groups (farm "special interests") are exercising their right to describe to the court the potential effects upon farmers of the possible outcomes of the lawsuit -- a lawsuit that the environmental group brought against EPA. Also, as the article says, "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." Without a seat at the table, legitimate concerns cannot be addressed, or even heard. All "special interest groups" and individuals - no matter who or what they represent - have the right to either initiate cases or intervene in cases that affect them. The courts then decide whether to take the cases or allow the interventions. Litigation is supposed to be a right accessible to all -- including environmental groups and farm groups. The courts decide to what extent parties' arguments and concerns are valid.

  2. Anonymous says:

    EPA is not a "special interest group" and cannot lobby administration officials -- it is a government agency that follows federal law. Meanwhile, the Farm Bureau absolutely is a "special interest group" and does lobby for the interests of farming conglomerates against clean water. Further, EPA has never questioned the water quality modeling for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and it was never intended for use at the local level. Bottom line, the American people want and deserve clean water. If you wouldn't swim or fish in your local waterway, ask yourself why? Any efforts to reduce the amount of pollution runoff to reasonable levels that still allow for viable, profitable farming while cleaning up our rivers and streams should be applauded.

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