New Report: USDA Records Inconsistent

Farm Bureau says the data EPA used to formulate TMDL loads may be faulty.

Published on: Dec 27, 2010

A major new Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is based on data that is inconsistent with conservation records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, notes spokespersons with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF points to a newly released study prepared by the water science and engineering consulting firm LimnoTech, which was commissioned by a coalition of agriculture groups, including AFBF.

The study says purported facts in data collected in the Chesapeake Bay region by the USDA and the EPA don't match up with one another. EPA is using their set of data to develop new court-ordered Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLS) for nutrients in the Bay, which could have a major economic impact on farming, industry and development across the six-state Chesapeake watershed area.

And the inconsistencies start at a very basic level, says Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

For example, "EPA assumes there is about 3.3 million acres of cropland in the watershed," Parrish notes. "USDA assumes over 4 million acres, which is a 30% difference. EPA assumes only half the farmland in the watershed is farmed using conservation tillage and that the other half of the farmland is highly tilled, including that farmed with the use of moldboard plow. USDA assumes a significant part – somewhere in the neighborhood of 90%-plus of the farmland is using some form of either no-till or mulch-till."

Parrish says that when hydrology assumptions in the models are that different questions about validity arise.

"If the USDA's numbers are right, they say farmers don't have to do anything

in regards to reducing phosphorus and sediment," he says. "They've already met their 2025 goals."

"The study really does point out that the EPA's model is not statistically accurate on the scale that they want to use it on," Parrish adds. "They haven't documented their scenario-builder, and they haven't accounted for the conservation practices that farmers are actually using on the land. Therefore, (the study) calls into question the entire model, and not just for farmers, but for localities."

The AFBF is asking EPA to hold off on issuing a rule setting the Chesapeake Bay's nutrient limits until the inconsistencies are explained.

For more information visit Limnotech's website at http://www.limno.com/hot_topics/chesapeake_bay.html and the American Farm Bureau website at http://fb.org/.