A case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court “is indicative of another attempt by environmentalists to run you out of business,” Washington, D.C., attorney Gary Baise told farmers attending the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s annual commodity conference.

Baise, an Illinois farmer who is a principal with the Olson Frank Weeda Terman Matz Law Firm and has 30 years in government and private practice, says the case brought by the Northwest Environmental Defense Center originated in Oregon and had it been successful “would have shut down most logging in the Northwest.”

And he says, it has potentially far-reaching ramifications not only for timber interests in Mississippi and elsewhere, but also for animal and row crop agriculture.

He represents agriculture clients that producers and ag organizations, in cases involving the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other regulations.

The issue in the Oregon case involved a lawsuit by an environmental organization claiming that rain runoff from logging roads constitutes a threat to fish, vegetation, and other wildlife that could be miles downstream from the original source, and asking that runoff from logging operations be subject to the same Clean Water Act rules as industrial storm water and that loggers be required to obtain discharge permits for culverts, ditches, and other water-channeling measures.

A federal appeals court upheld the environmental group’s petition, but timber companies and state officials asked the high court to intervene.

Under CWA rules, Baise says, “If you have water that is channeled into a ditch next to your logging road and install culvert so you can cross that ditch, it becomes a point source under the Clean Water Act, meaning you have to have a permit.

“And it gets worse: EPA is now imputing and writing Best Management Practices on how you must run your operation. Those BMPs will then commented upon by the environmental and public interest groups.

“The permitting process alone would put you, and me, out of business. It could be applied to any of us in agriculture — any storm water runoff from your property would have to be permitted.”

For 35 years, the Clean Water Act has contained exemptions for water runoff from farms and timberland, Baise says. “The Agriculture Storm Water Runoff Exemption and the Silviculture Water Runoff Exemption say that, unlike sewage treatment plants and industrial operations, we don’t need to have to a Clean Water Act permit.