“But, this court case says, no, these should not be exempt. It was argued about five weeks ago in the Supreme Court. On the weekend before the case was to be argued, the EPA put out a new rule that was actually helpful to agriculture, saying they would have discretion as to whether or not to require storm water runoff permits under the CWA.The environmentalists have already said, however, that they’re going to sue the EPA over this fairly sensible decision.”

A decision by the court should be handed down in the next 30 to 45 days, Baise says.

“I think it will come down in favor of agriculture — but even so, the environmentalists are going to continue to come up with tactics to try and get control over your property. In many respects, this comes down to an issue of private property rights being litigated under the Clean Water Act. These groups aren’t going to give up on trying to shut down commercial agriculture and timber in this country.

“We’re going to be doing everything we can to try and protect the private property interests in this case.”

Baise, citing examples of the EPA levying jail terms and fines topping $1 million against agricultural and logging operations, quoted a Washington Post editorial that “The Environmental Protection Agency is earning a reputation for abuse,” and cited a top agency administrator who observed that “EPA’s policy for enforcement is: Hit them as hard as you can, make an example of them, and go after them.”

Starting in the Bush administration, Baise says, “The EPA has become an agency all to its own. It does not have sufficient adult oversight. I’m among a few who say that instead of a single administrator, it needs to be a commission, like the Federal Communications Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission, so there would be more diversity in who is running things.”

In other areas of environmental concern, Baise notes, a lawsuit has been filed in New Orleans, with motions now under way, that could have a significant impact on states within the Mississippi River watershed by requiring control of nutrients coming off agricultural land into streams and rivers.

“They’re also going to try to get rules for emissions into the air, such as from anhydrous ammonia, which can convert to nitrous oxide (N20). California has already held hearings on ways to limit use of anhydrous — just another way to control agriculture by limiting our inputs.”

And he adds, the Department of the Interior has been petitioned to add more than 400 plants and animals to the endangered species list, “many of which are found on southern forest lands,” which could further hamper timber operations.

“We’re going to see a lot more” lawsuits by environmental/activist groups — “another trend that is not healthy for our freedoms, and a threat to agriculture in the future,” Baize says.

“The American Farm Bureau Federation is helping support agriculture’s interests in this issue and has taken the lead on your behalf.

“Farming today is increasingly risky, and more and more we’re having to worry about our neighbors. We know we have a great story in U.S. agriculture. These things are bothersome and nettlesome, but we’re going to have to contend with them, and we’re going to have to do a better job of educating our non-farm neighbors.

“American agriculture has a magnificent horizon, a great future — but we must work to protect it.”

hbrandon@farmpress.com