In Perspective: Nutrient standards likely coming soon

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click image to zoom“With the entire fertilizer industry working with associations like ARA and TFI, hopefully, strict, unrealistic rules and regulations can be avoided. But it is not a sure thing. Ag retailers and their farmer customers have to buy into the ResponsibleAg initiative.” Two recent court decisions announced in late September indicate more fertilizer and nutrient management regulations likely will be coming for ag retailer across the country.

The first court case involved a District Court judge deciding if the environmental protection Agency had the authority to set and enforce Total Maximum Daily Load for the Chesapeake Bay.

U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled that EPA did have the authority. The case centered on whether EPA had overstepped its bounds under the federal Clean Water Act, created an unfair process and used fl awed standards.

This lawsuit was brought to court by the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2011 and was supported by numerous agriculture industry associations. Many of these groups issued statements indicating their disappointment in the new ruling.

AFBF’s main complaint with the recent ruling was that “Congress did not authorize EPA to dictate how farmers, builders, homeowners and towns would share the responsibility of achieving clean water,” Bob Stallman, president, AFBF, wrote.

The broader concern for ag retailers is how EPA will move forward with establishing TMDL levels and enforce its rules for the Chesapeake Bay.

In a second lawsuit, the U.S. District Court in Eastern Louisiana ordered the EPA to decide whether to set new limits on the pollution in waterways that lead to algae blooms. The court told the EPA it has six months to make a decision.

This lawsuit was brought by a group of conservation groups, headed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). NRDC claims EPA has been silent on the issue and needs to take action. In a lawsuit filed a year and a half ago, EPA was asked to establish quantifiable standards and cleanup plans for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The recent court decision ruled that EPA had refused to provide a direct answer, which is unlawful.

These two court cases should be taken as wakeup calls for the ag retail industry. Regulations on fertilizer and nutrient management are coming. With the court ruling that EPA has the authority to set and enforce fertilizer limits under the Clean Water Act in the Chesapeake Bay area, it’s not a stretch that EPA will use a similar model to set and enforce nutrient standards in the Midwest. With the court ruling in Louisiana, EPA will be looking at making a decision on whether to set limits for the Mississippi River basin, which would impact all ag retailers and farming operations in the Midwest.

The fertilizer industry is under intense scrutiny by the government and the public, and it likely will get worse before it gets better. The ag retailer and fertilizer industries are working together to preserve logical use of fertilizer and to ensure the public of its safety.

In this month’s issue, the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute are launching the ResponsibleAg initiative to create a fertilizer code of practice for the industry. This initiative is greatly needed and is ambitious. Be sure to read all the details of the program on page 22.

With the entire fertilizer industry working with associations like ARA and TFI, hopefully, strict, unrealistic rules and regulations can be avoided. But it is not a sure thing. Ag retailers and their farmer customers have to buy into the ResponsibleAg initiative. The EPA and courts have to be dissuaded from stepping in and creating new limits and regulations on ag retailers and farmers. No retailer can afford to sit back and wait to see what will happen with nutrient regulations. The courts have ruled, but the tide can be turned. Get involved in ARA and TFI and write your representatives and senators because doing nothing will not serve you or your operation.

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