Farm Bureau: Farmers still standing firm against S. 1816

RICHMOND—Producer members of county Farm Bureaus statewide are contacting Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb concerning the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2010.

Senate Bill 1816, they say, could spell disaster for farms and rural communities in the bay’s six-state watershed, because it places the goal of bay restoration above all economic and social considerations and stands to impose severe economic hardships on farmers. It also would abandon states’ independent authorities to plan for the development and use of land and water resources.

“There has seldom been a piece of legislation with a worse potential impact on our communities, our farms and our collective future,” said Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor.

That’s not to say Virginia farmers don’t care about the bay, Pryor noted. “Being careful with water and mindful of your downstream neighbors is simply part of responsible farming, and many, many farms both in and outside the Chesapeake Bay watershed have put practices in place to protect water quality. Sadly, they still are being painted as the main source of resistance in efforts to clean up the bay.”

Farm Bureau has asserted that S. 1816 erroneously blames agriculture for more than 50 percent of all excess nutrients reaching the bay and relies on a computer model that does not account for extensive voluntary clean-up efforts that Virginia farmers already have made.

“This bill is using flawed information to justify increased federal oversight of farmers,” Pryor said, “to the extent that the Environmental Protection Agency essentially would be in charge of every land-use decision in the bay watershed.

“And this would set a precedent for oversight in other watersheds nationwide.”

VFBF and other state Farm Bureaus in the bay watershed have voiced support for another cleanup bill—H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act—which was approved in committee last week and is sponsored by Reps. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

“This bill calls for the kind of informed, responsible regulation that will protect the Chesapeake Bay while allowing agriculture to remain viable in its watershed,” Pryor said.

“We’re grateful to Reps. Holden and Goodlatte for their efforts to bring about a workable solution.”

Contact Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations, at 804-290-1024.

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