86 Agriculture and Business Organizations Join TFI in Challenging EPA’S Efforts to Impose Water Rules in Florida

Scientific, Legal and Economic Issues are Questioned


April 30, 2010
Scientific, Legal and Economic Issues are Questioned

Washington, D.C. – The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) garnered the support of 86 agribusiness and business organizations in questioning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to impose drastic new water regulations in the state of Florida. The groups strongly criticized the scientific basis for the agency’s “Proposed Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida’s Lakes and Flowing Waters,” and expressed concern regarding the rule’s impact on Florida’s economy in three separate sets of comments filed this week with the agency.

Florida was beginning to adopt narrative water quality criteria standards for nutrients in 2009 in a process that had been praised by an EPA Science Advisory Board when the agency stepped in and proposed numeric criteria for Florida lakes, springs, clear streams and canals. If finalized, these criteria will override the state’s effort and effectively become part of Florida’s water quality standards for the purpose of issuing Clean Water Act permits.

“The dramatic scope of EPA’s proposed rule will have a significant impact on Florida agriculture as well as the state’s economy as a whole,” said TFI President Ford West. “TFI recognizes the need to reduce nutrient loadings to Florida’s lakes and flowing waters, but we believe that EPA’s approach threatens Florida’s fragile economy without providing commensurate environmental benefit.”

TFI’s comments point out that EPA cannot show that its proposed nutrient standards will have a beneficial effect. “Unlike standards for toxic chemicals, it cannot be assumed that increasingly stringent nutrient criteria will produce water quality improvements. There is a threshold at which more stringent nutrient criteria will actually harm water quality because nutrients are essential to a healthy aquatic ecosystem.”

Moving forward, the organizations urged EPA to:

  • Demonstrate why imposing federal state-wide nutrient criteria would be more consistent
    with the Clean Water Act than allowing a state to continue to protect water quality through
    the state’s water quality management program;
  • Ensure that any federal criteria meets the requirements of its own water quality standards;
  • Not attempt to control nutrients below natural background levels and not promulgate
    standards that are based on inappropriate models;
  • Ensure that standards apply only if the specific nutrient is affecting plant growth;
  • Ensure that any new standards set a level of protectiveness, not a load allocation and be
    developed by engaging states in the rulemaking process, recognizing that federal criteria will
    be directly incorporated into permits; and
  • Fully account for the costs of implementing proposed standards, to dischargers, to
    agriculture, to city storm sewer systems, and to the state as a whole.

A set of comments addressing the proposed rule’s impact on agribusinesses received support from 60 different companies or organizations representing a wide array of agricultural interests, including the American Farm Bureau Federation; the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association; U.S. Steel Corporation; and the National Mining Association. These comments urge EPA to adopt an alternative approach for agricultural sources of nutrients that relies on nutrient management rather than numeric criteria. Specifically, the comments advocated the use of a scientific and peer- reviewed set of fertilizer best management practices known as 4R nutrient stewardship. This 4R nutrient stewardship concept promotes the use of the right fertilizer source, applied at the right rate, right time and in the right place.

“The simple and yet science-based fundamentals that comprise the 4R nutrient stewardship system should be considered a viable option by EPA as it works to develop water quality standards that can be embraced by a wide range of audiences, including Florida’s agricultural sector,” said West. “We look forward to working with EPA and the state of Florida on this issue to reach a solution based on sound science that will enhance the protection of Florida’s natural resources.”

About the Fertilizer Institute

The Fertilizer Institute represents the nation’s fertilizer industry. Producers, wholesalers, retailers and trading firms which comprise its membership are served by a full time Washington, D.C., staff in various legislative, educational and technical areas as well as with information and public relations programs.