Environmental regulations will continue to pressure farmers, according to a Washington D.C. ag attorney.

The challenge to American agriculture to produce more food, fuel, and fiber on decreasing acreage won’t be made any easier by governmental regulatory bodies, according to Gary Baise, agricultural lawyer with Olsson, Frank, Weeda, Terman, Bode, and Matz law firm in Washington, D.C.

“Don’t think they (the EPA) can’t shut you down,” he said while addressing nearly 200 growers at the Pursuit of Maximum Yield seminar last week. “There are policies in place and in the works that will restrict food production in the United States.”

Water issues are at the top of the EPA’s priority list. While Baise agrees clean water is essential and farmers must do all they can to protect the water around their farms, some regulations are based on incomplete data and are overly restricting.

“For example, the Chesapeake Bay Initiative is one I’m watching very closely,” Baise said. “The EPA has stated that 50% of the acreage in the six Chesapeake states is still moldboard plowed — however, USDA data says that 88% of that same acreage is not.”

The EPA has lobbied to gain control of all United States wetlands, up to and including “wet spots on farms and isolated water, such as a farm pond,” he said. Stricter Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules seek to address those issues.

“I’ve heard agriculture compared to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in talks about some of these regulations,” Baise said. “They’re even trying to figure out what to do about milk, because it contains animal fat and if spilled, can end up in the water system.”

Although the challenges are great, Baise and others are working to counter misinformation with facts and present alternatives that both protect our environment and allow efficient farming.

“I am optimistic about the future of agriculture because we will meet and defeat these challenges,” he said.