Washington Dairies And EPA Square Off In Court

After last months’ ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, denying an EPA motion to dismiss the case, the Washington state Dairy Federation and EPA are bound for federal court over a 2012-13 study regarding groundwater contamination in the lower Yakima Valley. The EPA report said dairies near Sunnyside and Granger polluted the area groundwater with nitrates. However that study has come under fire by many ag groups, including Save Family Farming.

SFF Executive Director Gerald Baron said this flawed report, conducted by the Seattle EPA office has already had a huge impact on the dairy industry, and he fears that many farmers don’t appreciate the long-term ramifications. He cited a recent court decision in Spokane.

“For the first time ever, they used a federal law that applies to municipal waste and says when you apply fertilizer on your fields, you come under this law applying to municipal waste.  And what this attorney, Mr. Tebbutt has made clear, is that he intends to use that ruling as a basis to basically regulate fertilizer application or all dairy farms.”

Baron said the potential wide spread impact to Northwest Ag is why a variety of farm groups, not just the dairy industry, are asking the EPA to withdraw this study. Baron added just before the August 21st motion to dismiss ruling, the EPA offered to “no longer use this study for future enforcement”, which he said is far from sufficient.

“They are not recognizing its false science, they didn’t follow procedures, they need to remove the study, or at least, at the very least, have it properly peer reviewed which they never did.  So, that’s what they’ve been asking for and so far they’ve refused to do that.”

Baron added even removing the study from future enforcement does little to help dairy farms that are currently under the spotlight of the study.

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