Sabers rattled once more over the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort as the American Farm Bureau Federation filed suit on Jan. 10, challenging the TMDL or total maximum daily load component of the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2010.

The latest of a number of complaints was filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and one of its members, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, in a federal court in Harrisburg, Pa.

Currently, the federal EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to implement maximum daily levels for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. Farmers in Virginia and other affected states contend the data used to establish TDML (total daily maximum loads) is seriously flawed.

Among other criteria, farmers and farmer advocate groups disagree with EPA’s contention that 15 percent of farmland bordering streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay are under conservation-tillage. Virginia farmers contend over 90 percent of the acreage in question is in conservation-tillage, much of it in long-term no-till.

Farm bureaus in each of the six states impacted by Chesapeake Bay cleanup have challenged various components of the federal act, claiming the federal government’s speed-up of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup will force some farmers out of business.

Mandatory fencing of all streams that feed into any stream that eventually ends up in the Chesapeake Bay is another sticking point for farmers. The high cost of fencing — the Virginia Farm Bureau says $30,000-$40,000 — agriculture support organizations claim would put dozens of family-owned dairy, swine and cattle operations out of business.