“The costs could impact small businesses and industrial recruitment. It will affect small businesses with higher water and sewer rates. If we don’t get the EPA to back off, it will make the Chesapeake Bay region unattractive for all kinds of businesses,’’ the Virginia congressman says.

Speaking at the same meeting in Verona, Va., Ken Fanfoni, the executive director of the Augusta County Service Authority, says, “$205 million in recent wastewater treatment plant upgrades on five plants in a 20-mile radius of Verona resulted in a reduction of only 1/10 of one percent in nitrogen, and every customer will pay $200 a year over the next 20 years for what we have done.”

Bay area farmers mostly just want the whole Bay Restoration question to be settled and for those pointing the finger of pollution at agriculture to get their facts right.

Third generation Virginia farmer Billy Bain has testified a number of times before various organizations, offering a farmer’s perspective.

Bain, who has won numerous awards for his environmental stewardship and was the first Virginia farmer to switch to less environmentally stressful strip-tilling of peanut lands, says farmers don’t get enough credit for being the ultimate environmentalists.

“We as farmers have everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain by putting too much fertilizer or other farm chemicals on our soil. With the high cost of fertilizer today and the extra cost of applying it, it would just be crazy to use any more than you need,” he says.

Bain says he doesn’t know of any Virginia farmer who opposes the idea of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. What farmers want is a fair accounting of what they have done and continue to do on a daily basis to prevent pollutants from reaching the Bay, he says.

David Trujillo, who is farm manager for Hart Hudson Farms near South Hill, Va., says even a cursory look at farms by those heading the Bay restoration program would be clear evidence that agriculture isn’t the primary cause of ongoing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

“I will be planting my 39th crop here in Virginia this spring. I can remember times when I could see fertilizer left on the ground and the runoff from rainwater was the color of our soil. Now, you just don’t see that. What runoff water we have on our farm is clear — there’s just not much there to cause problems in streams, he says.

The Chesapeake Bay is the country’s largest estuary and the first to be targeted by the U.S. Congress for clean up.

Similar estuaries around the country are keeping a careful eye on proceeding for the Chesapeake Bay because of persistent rumors that the Bay model will be used for similar cleanup programs for estuaries around the country.

(Agricultural interests across the country are paying close attention to the Chesapeake Bay developments, with concerns the final outcome could impact other areas of the U.S. For a look into that situation, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/chesapeake-bay-cleanup-threat-us-farming-0. Meanwhile, there are claims of gaps in data being used by EPA to determine what guidelines farmers will have to follow in the Bay restoration issue. For that report, click here).

rroberson@farmpress.com