The House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research held a hearing Wednesday to look at proposals that would put into place dramatic new regulations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Both the House and Senate are considering bills that would reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and codify a May 2009 executive order, giving EPA and other federal agencies broad and undefined new authorities and putting court-ordered Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) into statute.
Though the Agriculture Committees in each chamber do not have jurisdiction over the Chesapeake Bay Program reauthorization process, agriculture is a major industry in the region and the Committees have shown interest in overseeing any regulations that can impact ag operations.
The Subcommittee heard testimony from officials representing USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Virginia Farm Bureau, Perdue and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition.
At the hearing, Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) questioned both the USDA and EPA representatives about the proposals and noted that regulations imposed in one region will likely move to the entire country over time.
Goodlatte also had two agriculture coalition letters sent to Subcommittee leadership this week read into the hearing’s record.
Those letters, both of which included NAWG’s signature, reflected serious concerns in the industry about the process by which the new regulations would be put into place and what they could mean for the agricultural production in the region. The letters urged Agriculture Committee Members to support reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program without substantive changes in order to devote adequate time and science to develop creative ways for economic recovery and growth to coexist with water quality goals and initiatives.
Goodlatte and other Subcommittee Members also noted that the 2008 Farm Bill included significant resources to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay by reducing runoff and improving water quality and urged their colleagues to hold off on further regulation until those provisions could be fully implemented.
NAWG opposes mandatory TMDLs and will continue to work to modify the existing legislation with Members and coalition partners, particularly the wheat state associations in Virginia and Maryland.
Written testimony from this week’s hearing is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html.
The two letters sent this week by agriculture groups and another sent earlier in the year to the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee can be viewed at http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/environmentalissues/.