Leaders of Virginia’s largest organization representing farmers say they were “startled” when state Attorney General Mark Herring filed an amicus brief supporting the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan that’s being challenged in federal court. The American Farm Bureau Federation had challenged the multi-state agreement, saying the federal Clean Water Act gives individual states—NOT the Environmental Protection Agency—the authority to determine how to curtail pollutants and clean up the water. A U.S. District court has upheld the plan, which is estimated to cost residents 15-billion dollars.
Twenty-one state attorneys general joined the Bureau to appeal the lower court ruling. Herring disagrees, and said when the most promising plan to protect and restore the bay comes under attack, he would stand up for the health of Virginia’s families, and for the state’s economic interests and efforts to restore the bay. But the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Wilmer Stoneman says farmers want to work with the state on Bay clean-up.
“What we’re opposed to is a dictatorial approach from the federal government—more specifically, EPA. There’s a Chesapeake Bay agreement. They’re part of the agreement, and we’re of the belief that that means we are to work cooperatively—not in a dictatorial role.”
Stoneman says the EPA is acting as an enforcer—not a partner—and its model does not accurately reflect the farmers’ nutrient-management plans and progress.
“The frustration for farmers is at the moment we get ready to reach the brass ring or grab the ball, it’s moved just a few more inches down the way.”
He says farmers play a role in Virginia’s largest industry—and the state should work with them to achieve these goals.