Lawsuit Against EPA Could Affect Ag


On the surface, the latest lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by two environmental groups is just another attack on the tools that farmers use.

But one agriculture industry official said it would be a good idea for farmers to sit up and take notice, because this latest suit involves nearly all ag chemicals, meaning there likely is not a single farmer left unaffected.

Kansas Corn Growers Executive Director Jere White said the lawsuit filed Thursday in a California federal court is broader in magnitude than most other environmental lawsuits against EPA.

“If you look at the scope of the lawsuit, it is different in that it is not targeted, just when you look at the geographical distribution and the number of products involved,” he said. “This is more of an assault on modern agriculture than it is about protection of endangered species.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network North America sued EPA challenging the agency’s entire ag chemicals regulatory program, stating in a news release that the action was “historic” and “sweeping.”

The suit claims EPA has not consulted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the effects of EPA-registered pesticides on endangered species. The groups claim in their nearly 400-page complaint that EPA’s failure to do so violates the Endangered Species Act. The groups demand the EPA go back and consult the wildlife services and then place restrictions on ag chemicals while rewriting regulations.

The suit includes a more than 360-page list of every conceivable ag chemical used and every conceivable species threatened.

When contacted by DTN Friday afternoon, an EPA spokesman said no one from the agency was available for immediate comment on the lawsuit.

White said environmental lawsuits related to endangered species typically focus on one particular species in a given region, maybe involving an endangered species habitat located in a proposed bridge construction site, for example.

“They (EPA lawsuits) usually don’t ever go to trial,” White said. “They usually want to enter an agreement to enter a schedule. EPA doesn’t have a history of defending themselves. One of my earlier reactions to it was that it might have got too big of a bite of the elephant this time.”

The action is likely to drag more farmers into the national debate on endangered species, he said.

“Virtually everyone involved in production agriculture has a stake in this,” White said.


One concern for farmers is that a district court judge in California could require buffer strips near all U.S. waters, White said.

A buffer strip is an area of land maintained in permanent vegetation that helps control air, soil and water quality.

“It could become the law of the land regardless,” he said. “The buffer strip threat is very real, and it could be why activists decided to take such a big chunk.”

White said it is probably hard to argue against a better process when it comes to ag chemicals and endangered species.

“It’s not all bad to force everyone into the discussion,” he said. “We’ve seen this train wreck coming for some time. I think from the farmer’s standpoint, it is an indication that they are not going to be immune from these discussions.”

White said he suspects that agriculture groups will consider intervening on EPA’s behalf.

These lawsuits have been reasonably successful at creating timelines, he said. Activists have been successful because the agency couldn’t defend itself.


The chemical advocacy group CropLife America stated in a release that the lawsuit would hurt U.S. farmers if successful. CropLife President and CEO Jay Vroom said the consultation process between EPA and the federal wildlife agencies is “broken.”

Both services, he said in a statement, “often ignore” EPA’s expert science and instead choose to use “faulty or out-of-date scientific data.”

The lawsuit, Vroom said, is another example of why the Endangered Species Act is in need of reform. “However, litigation does not help to improve a system which can only be fixed through sound policy and legislation,” he said.

“As such, the current system is costly, inefficient, does not reflect the latest innovations and advancements in crop protection products, and fails to adequately protect species,” Vroom said. “Given these inherent flaws, the resolution proposed by (the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America) may lead to an even more devastating impact than they anticipate, threatens all of modern U.S. agriculture, and demonstrates the inherent fault” in the ESA.

He said the act is an important legislative vehicle which helps facilitate the conservation of endangered plants and animals.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in recent days to review the U.S. regulatory system.

CropLife stated it previously filed a petition that offered suggested improvements to the ESA’s consultation process. Those suggestions included providing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service documents to ag chemical applicants during consultation.

“A better consultation process between EPA and the services begins with full consideration of the best available science and inclusive stakeholder input,” Vroom said.

To view the lawsuit complaint filed by the plaintiffs, go to

Todd Neeley can be reached at


© Copyright 2011 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


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