The American Farm Bureau Federation wasted no time at a May 18 hearing by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry, criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for shaky science around the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and the embattled Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
“No farmer can legitimately comprehend and respond to the reams of academic analyses that have been produced through these meetings and continue to perform the tasks needed to run his or her farm business,” says Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert, who adds that even after 34 years of farming, he doesn’t understand EPA’s “science.”
Ebert also accused EPA of spreading false information about family farm operations, painting farmers as villains that impair water quality. Those accusations are in conflict with U.S. Geological Survey data, which shows positive gains on water quality throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, he says.
Part of the problem is that federal regulations have become overly complex but also vulnerable to the whims of public opinion, according to Florida Farm Bureau member Kate English.
“A farmer shouldn’t have to have a lawyer and an engineer on staff to grow food,” she says. “The [WOTUS] rule not only expands the regulatory footprint for farming and increases the certainty we battle daily, but it also lacks peer-reviewed sound science. These regulations appear instead to be based on public opinion and social media trends rather than facts and science.”
The result is an unpredictable regulatory environment where compliance becomes a moving target rather than a “rational, science-based goal,” she says.
The EPA has already caught heat from other agricultural groups earlier this year after the agency: