Letter: Farm Bureau stand is a shortsighted one

The Farm Bureau national lobby group’s recent decision to file a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from limiting the amount of toxic pollutants that flow into the Chesapeake Bay is both shortsighted and ill advised. Efforts to prevent the EPA from regulating such pollution will damage the environment across the Chesapeake watershed and not only in the bay.

Farming practices that limit runoff from farms are inextricably intertwined with sustainable farming. Farms must be sustainable in order for future generations to be able to continue to reap the same benefit from the land. That said, farms should not be subject to an unfair share of the responsibility of restoring the environment in the Chesapeake watershed. Proper water and sewage management and improved environmental practices in urban and suburban areas are also essential and must be pursued. All people benefit from farms and for this reason society as a whole should help farmers carry the responsibility of land stewardship.

It is for this reason that there are state and federal cost share programs to assist farmers in their efforts to minimize polluting run off and improve water quality. The Farm Bureau should be focused on making sure that these programs are fully funded so that society as a whole shoulders the cost of needed environmental practices rather than opposing efforts to improve the environment which will ultimate degrade farms. The EPA’s efforts to protect and improve the environment in the Chesapeake watershed are essential if our region is to reverse the long steady decline of the regional environment.

Protecting the environment is not just an abstract concept. It means jobs and employment for many. This is particularly important at present. Today the Chesapeake Bay has one percent of the oysters that it had 40 years ago. As the oyster harvest has declined in recent years, 180 out of 200 shucking houses in the region have closed. The reduced harvest also means a loss of livelihood for the watermen that depended on the oyster. We have a moral obligation to not damage the lives of those who live downstream.

Recent efforts by some to limit the EPA’s role in curbing carbon emissions are also ill advised. The EPA can play a constructive role beyond our region at the national and global level if it is not stopped from regulating carbon emissions that undermine our global environment and lead to global warming. Increased carbon emissions due to human activity threatens to change existing weather patterns which could damage agricultural output through higher temperatures, more intense weather, and changes in precipitation. Both 2005 and 2010 were tied as the warmest years on record and the decade that ended in 2010 included nine of the 10 hottest years on record. The Farm Bureau and others that seek to restrict the role of the EPA should stand down and let the EPA get to work.

Patty O’Brien