The lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over fertilizer runoff in the Mississippi River Basin could have a costly impact on farmers and ag retailers. Daren Coppock, president and CEO of Agricultural Retailers Association, and Richard Gupton, vice president of legislative policy and counsel for ARA discussed the implications with Mike Adams on Monday’s AgriTalk radio program.

“Our concern here is that if the plaintiffs prevail in this lawsuit, the EPA would be required to step in and enforce numeric nutrient criteria on all of the states that have tributaries to the Mississippi River,” Coppock said.  “And so you’re talking about a huge swath of agricultural land and a big part of our nation’s breadbasket. If EPA steps in and forces the states to set different criteria than what they are already working with, or tightening those up or setting arbitrary timing requirements, there are all kinds of things that could happen that could turn out negatively for agriculture.”

Gupton explained that ARA is concerned over this new lawsuit because of what happened in Florida where a similar lawsuit was brought. In that case, EPA set new criteria for fertilizer use that went beyond natural conditions and usurped the state’s own limits. EPA set the limits at levels that were cleaner beyond the background conditions already present.

With this most recent case in mind, Coppock and Gupton shared that ARA is concerned similar stringent nutrient criteria could be set in the Mississippi River Basing, which would impact a large number of farming and ag retail operations. Gupton reminded listeners that nearly 60 percent of all fertilizer used in U.S. farming is used in the farmland surrounding the Mississippi River, which would be a bigger impact than the lawsuit in Florida.

The impact on such a large area would be widespread and costly. Coppock explained that for the first time in the Midwest, there would be limits on the amount of fertilizer used on cropland if EPA settles the case or the plaintiffs win.

“What you will see is that we cannot have any more than X percent of nitrogen and phosphorus in these waters that feed into the Mississippi River, and so in order to meet that target what we’re going to do is put a limit on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be applied to the farmland in the first place,” Coppock explained. “And there will be some kind of a model used to say X amount of nutrients applied to the ground results in this much runoff. And we’ve seen problems with EPA models before. The end result is that you’re going to see quantitative limits on the amount of fertilizer that farmers can actually use, regardless of the standards and practices and safeguards that [farmers] put in place.  There’ll just be a numeric limit that says you can apply this much and no more. That will be a tremendous impact to farmers and to the industries that supply them.”

As a result, this could impact farmers and ag retailers as well as distributors. And the result could be very costly as well.

“It could cost millions or hundreds of millions of dollars to billions of dollars a year if you go with some flawed EPA scientific modeling that’s been done in other cases,” Gupton said.

ARA encouraged listeners to contact their state governments to educate them.