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Miss. Farm Bureau files motion to intervene in water quality lawsuit

The Mississippi Farm Bureau joined 13 sister state organizations earlier this week in filing a motion to intervene in Gulf Restoration Network, et al. v. Jackson, et al.

Gulf Restoration is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to either adopt uniform nutrient water quality standards for all U.S. waters or to adopt similar measures for states in the Mississippi River Basin. The suit is filed in federal court in Louisiana.

The Clean Water Act allows states to choose whether to use narrative or numeric standards to determine water quality. Most states in the Mississippi River Basin employ the narrative method, which calls for “no nutrients at levels that cause a harmful imbalance of aquatic populations,” meaning water quality should be such that it doesn’t lead to the demise of one species or another.

What Gulf Restoration wants is for the EPA to force states – if not every state, at least those that border the river – to adopt the numeric standards, which would set hard and fast limits on nutrients.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the 14 state organizations claim such a move would prove costly for farmers. Numeric standards, they say, could impose stringent limits on runoff to bodies of water that drain into the Mississippi River. In Mississippi, that’s nearly every body of water west of Interstate 55, and a lot east of 55.

“Setting appropriate numeric nutrient standards is a complex and difficult scientific undertaking and EPA has proven it is not up to the task,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a press release. “Farmers have no reason to believe that EPA could establish scientifically defensible standards for any one state, much less for 40 percent of the U.S. land mass.”

The purpose of the proposed intervention is to clarify the limited circumstances within the Clean Water Act that allow the EPA to set water quality standards that override those already set in place by a state government. Stallman said the AFBF opposes a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.”

Joining Mississippi in filing the motion to intervene were Farm Bureaus in Arkansas; Illinois; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; Oklahoma; South Dakota; Tennessee; and Wyoming.

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