The Fertilizer Institute: Water Works

Capitol Building

Getting a handle on the legislative outlook for 2011 requires first a look to the recent past. After the wild 2010 mid-term election, the dust is still settling in Washington, DC. In November, voters gave the Republicans a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and allowed the Democrats to hold onto the majority by a slim margin in the Senate. In the House, Republicans won more than 60 seats.

As in past elections, being an incumbent was not much of a safety net. Three senior Democratic Committee Chairmen — Rep. John M. Spratt, Jr. (SC), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton (MO), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, were all defeated.

In the Senate, Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry was defeated by Rep. John Boozman (R-AR). Republicans also gained seats in Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Alaska.

An 11th-hour effort was underway in the “lame duck” session of Congress to include S.1816 The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restora­tion Act, and in the potential Lands, Waters and Wildlife omnibus legislation. The fertilizer industry and the agriculture community should be aware that S.1816 would pose significant negative changes to the Clean Water Act.

Advocates of the bill are claiming that the tough measures found in S.1816 are justified based upon the results of the draft USDA “Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesa­peake Bay Region” showing the contributions of agriculture to the Bay. In order to address false claims such as these, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and other members of the Ag­ricultural Nutrient Policy Council (ANPC) recently asked LimnoTech, one of the nation’s leading water sciences and environmental engineering consulting firms, to compare the assumptions and numbers found in the USDA study and EPA‘s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The comparison revealed astounding differences between USDA and EPA data concerning pollutant loadings for the Chesapeake Bay. The technical conclusions reached by LimnoTech about the implications of the very different data used by USDA and EPA call into serious question the validity of EPA’s scientific conclusions regarding the role of agriculture as a source of pollutants and the need for the overly aggressive measures now called for by EPA.

Water, Water Everywhere

Another water-related issue is coming from Washington — but this time from EPA. Partially in response to an environmental litigant’s lawsuit, EPA has taken over the development of numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) for the state of Florida. The first of these were issued in November. Wisconsin, responding to pressures from EPA and the environmental community, is now adopting NNC for phosphorous. Kansas may very well be the next battleground for this issue and TFI currently estimates that approximately 44 states have NNC under development in one form or another. Most states’ NNC work is in a holding pattern as states are all watching to see what EPA does with the NNC for Florida, under the reasonable assumption that the approaches/levels used there will be what EPA will accept from other states.

What are NNC and why do they matter? Nutrient criteria are part of the internal, technical workings of the Clean Water Act (CWA), within the general grouping of the CWA technical program called “Water Quality Standards” (WQS). The WQS program and the water quality criteria within it are the “guts” of Clean Water Act implementation.

Regulators use water quality criteria as one of the direct guides to allowable pollutant quantities in a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), permit holder’s discharge and to determine what is considered acceptable in discharges from non-point sources. Additionally, water quality criteria are used by regulators to judge if a water body contains too much of a specified pollutant and if it is unable to meet its “designated use,” thereby classifying it is as “impaired” under the CWA.

Once a water body is identified as “impaired” under the CWA, the TMDL program is triggered with its cascading requirements and issues, as is now unfolding in the Chesapeake Bay.

Nutrient criteria within the WQS can be classified as either narrative or numeric. An example of a narrative nutrient criteria might be “No phosphorous will be allowed in this stream at levels that will prevent desired levels of aquatic flora and fauna.”

Fighting Back

In early December, TFI filed a legal challenge to EPA’s rule. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division. In the complaint, the lawsuit contends that:
•  EPA’s Final Rule is unlawful and should be vacated because it establishes water quality criteria that ignore causation, regulate water bodies that are achieving their designated use and restrict nutrients that do not cause impairment.
•  By using simple and overly broad statistical principles EPA’s rule will classify a certain percentage of water bodies as impaired when they in fact are not.
•  EPA’s new criteria usurp Florida’s statutory authority to develop standards and are fundamentally in conflict with Florida’s existing efforts to implement narrative water quality standard for nutrients.
•  EPA unlawfully ignored the requirements that water quality criteria be based on true biological impairment and instead established numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus in water bodies where they would not actually cause such an imbalance.
•  EPA’s shortcut numeric criteria are not based on sound scientific rationale or scientifically defensible methods because they would unlawfully restrict nitrogen and phosphorus in lakes, streams and springs that are not impaired. In other instances, where the lakes, streams or springs are impaired, EPA’s standards will unlawfully regulate nutrients that are not causing the impairment.
•  EPA’s regulation wrongly assumes that nitrogen and phosphorus levels above EPA’s numeric criteria will cause algal growth and thus impairment.
•  EPA has ignored its own Science Advisory Board and set nitrogen standards when in fact nitrogen is not limiting (and thus not responsible) for impairment in fresh water bodies.

A New Climate For Climate Change

The significant change in the makeup of the new Congress most likely mean that “cap-and-trade” style climate legislation is off the table — at least in the short term. As is the case with water issues, we are faced with a very active (and activist) EPA that is moving forward with several rules to control greenhouse gas emissions. In total, at least six separate rule-makings that could impact the fertilizer industry. While several of these rules are the subject of legal challenges from other potentially regulated industries, EPA has made it clear that it believes it has the authority to move forward and is doing so.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Legislation Stories

CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterways Infrastructure
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Corn soil
LegislationARA Member Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee
May 25, 2017
Agricultural retailers stand on the front-lines of the American economy. As trusted advisors to America’s farmers, ag retailers are uniquely Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationTrump’s EPA Appointee Dismisses Half of Major Scientific Review Board at Agency
May 8, 2017
(Via NYTimes.com) EPA has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what Read More
Trending Articles
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
StewardshipEnvironmental Respect 2017 Kicks Off Enjoying an American Pastime
July 18, 2017
Following months of planning and scheduling, the 2017 Environmental Respect Awards (ERA) celebration kicked off in fine fashion as more Read More
Soybean Closeup
Crop InputsMissouri Lifts Dicamba Ban, Issues Stricter Application Parameters
July 14, 2017
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has lifted its barely week-old ban on new dicamba technologies, which have been at the Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto Responds to Arkansas, Missouri Dicamba Bans
July 10, 2017
Monsanto, provider of the dicamba-tolerant Roundup Ready Xtend crop system for soybeans and cotton, issued the following statement on Friday, Read More
Retail FacilitiesPCS-Hammond Meets Fertilizer Storage Needs with New Dome Facility
July 8, 2017
The new barrel dome facility at the PCS-Hammond Regional Distribution Center in Hammond, IN, can hold more than 100,000 tons Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Latest News
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: Dicamba Update and InfoAg Preview
July 21, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss reports from the field and comments from Monsanto about dicamba drift this season, Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
StewardshipEnvironmental Respect: Grand Grounds, Posters Parade
July 19, 2017
To celebrate their accomplishments in the area of environmental stewardship, award recipients at the 2017 Environmental Respect week spent much Read More
StewardshipHarden’s Message to ERA Winners: Do Tell Your Good Stor…
July 19, 2017
As the daughter of a peanut farmer, Krysta Harden, Chief Sustainability Officer for DuPont Crop Protection, understands the importance the Read More
StewardshipFarming Smarter Hinges on 4R Best Management Practices
July 18, 2017
Preserving water quality while feeding another 2 billion people by 2050 is the challenge facing North America’s farmers and its Read More
StewardshipEnvironmental Respect 2017 Kicks Off Enjoying an Americ…
July 18, 2017
Following months of planning and scheduling, the 2017 Environmental Respect Awards (ERA) celebration kicked off in fine fashion as more Read More
Soybean Field Sunset
OpinionPicking Partners in the Crop Protection Market
July 17, 2017
Agriculture is a market awash in highs, lows, and everything in between. This is certainly true in the world of Read More
TMX-2050-In-Cab-Display-Launch-Run-Screen
EquipmentGPS Auto Steer: Innovating in a Mature Market
July 17, 2017
In the world of Big IRON, GPS auto steer has closely mirrored the evolutionary path of consumer GPS Navigation systems Read More
MFA-Centralia-MO
Eric SfiligojThe Resilience of Ag Retailers
July 17, 2017
After covering the ag retail market for 17 years, I think one of the most impressive character traits I’ve seen Read More
SERA-meeting
Stewardship4R Event Explores How to Minimize Phosphorus Losses
July 17, 2017
This year the Southern Extension and Research Activity (SERA) – 17; will be meeting in Oregon, OH, from August 14-17. Read More
Students Soybean Field
StewardshipCCA 4R Study Guide Available
July 17, 2017
In June the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) released the Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) 4R Nutrient Management Specialist (4R NMS) Read More
Soil soybean closeup
FertilizerThe 4Rs and Potassium
July 17, 2017
Are we meeting crop K needs? Using the 4R nutrient stewardship approach of selecting the right source at the right Read More
Soil Young Corn
StewardshipTop 10 Themes from the 2017 4R Nutrient Stewardship Sum…
July 17, 2017
Preserving water quality while feeding another 2 billion people by 2050 is the challenge facing North America’s farmers and its Read More
Soybean Field Sunset
Crop InputsWhich is Better for Soybeans: Fall or Spring Applicatio…
July 17, 2017
There have been many questions about fall versus spring applications of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) to soybeans, writes Dr. T. Read More
corn-potassium-deficiency-University-of-Minnesota-Extension
Crop InputsRecognizing Potassium Deficiency Symptoms in Crops
July 17, 2017
Some crops exhibit characteristic deficiency symptoms when adequate amounts of K are not available for growth and development, according to Read More
ManagementComplexity in Agriculture: The Rise (and Fall?) of Mons…
July 17, 2017
Sometimes it seems as if the ag world is changing so fast that we can barely keep up with it Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: Illegal, Improper Use at Root of Drift Proble…
July 14, 2017
Monsanto isn’t backing down from the position that its tool — the Roundup Ready Xtend dicamba-tolerant system for soybeans and Read More
Soybean Closeup
Crop InputsMissouri Lifts Dicamba Ban, Issues Stricter Application…
July 14, 2017
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has lifted its barely week-old ban on new dicamba technologies, which have been at the Read More