Today, Rep. Glenn "GT' Thompson (R-PA), Chairman, and Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA), Ranking Member, of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry held a public hearing to further review the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), agricultural practices, and their implications on watersheds communities.
TMDL is a program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit nutrient and sediment runoff in watersheds across the country. The EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL is a combination of 92 smaller TMDLs for individual tidal segments across the watershed and the largest and most complex program ever administered.
Considering the scope and magnitude of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there are concerns that the EPA is not recognizing the contribution producers have made to ensuring a healthy bay and failing to comprehend the economic consequences of its program on the region's economy and agricultural community.
Thompson and Holden highlighted the importance of conservation programs and their impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the voluntary steps farmers have taken to preserve and protect this watershed. Among the panel witnesses was Pennsylvania's Farm Bureau President, Carl Shaffer, of Mifflin Township. Shaffer outlined related concerns that the farming community is having with the TMDL and current conservation efforts being taken by producers in collaboration with state, local and federal governments.
Statement from Rep. Glenn "GT' Thompson (PA-5):
"Despite the successful conservation efforts to improve runoff and water quality at the state and local level, the EPA continues its quixotic quest to impose unreasonable regulatory mandates on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed without sound methods of determining their impact on the health or economic viability of the Bay and the region's agricultural communities. During the hearing, many Republicans and Democrats voiced substantial and warranted concerns that the EPA is reaching far beyond its statutory authority granted by Congress and continually fails to comprehend the financial hardships these regulations will impose on communities within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Through current investments and a focus on improved management practices at the state level, we can restore the Chesapeake Bay while also maintaining the economic livelihood of these communities."
Statement from Rep. Tim Holden (PA-17):
"This subcommittee has worked for a long time to make sure Chesapeake Bay farmers, who already face some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the United States, are put on the same level of playing field as those in other regions. I'm concerned that once again Bay farmers are being placed at a financial and competitive disadvantage through the TMDL. Without sharing all information used to develop load allocations and despite glaring discrepancies between data collected by various government agencies, EPA is moving forward with increased regulation at a rapid pace. It is important that EPA begin to work with farmers and ranchers, who have always been the best advocates for resource conservation, to ensure environmental stewardship across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed while minimizing burdens on producers."
Statement from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer:
"EPA's focus on agriculture and its over-reaching restrictions are particularly troublesome because agriculture has worked successfully with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce our environmental impact on the Bay. Use of crop inputs is declining. No-till farming has reduced soil erosion and resulted in more carbon being stored in the soil. Milk today is produced from far fewer cows. Nitrogen use efficiency has consistently improved. Farmers are proud that their environmental footprint is dramatically smaller today than it was 50 years ago, and we are committed to continuing this progress."