The trickle-down effect of a federal court’s decision to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put the Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000-square-mile watershed on a “pollution diet” could cause a staggering financial blow to farmers, the National Pork Producers Council and other agriculture groups have said.

NPPC and a coalition of agricultural and business groups challenged EPA’s regulation setting total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) – the amount of pollutants, including otherwise unregulated farm and agricultural storm water runoff – that the bay can receive and still meet federal water-quality standards, the NPPC said on its website.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, sided earlier this month with EPA, calling the opposition coalition’s arguments "unpersuasive," according to a Baltimore Sun article.

"Congress made a judgment in the Clean Water Act that the states and the EPA could, working together, best allocate the benefits and burdens of lowering pollution," Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote for the three-judge panel, the article said.  

EPA set a deadline of 2025 for the six bay states and District of Columbia to adopt measures to reduce pollution or face possible federal sanctions.

The NPPC, American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders and other groups had filed suit in 2011 to block the bay pollution plan, claiming the EPA overstepped its legal authority.

“EPA is forcing states to meet the standards, threatening the loss of federal financial assistance, among other penalties, to address pollution in the Chesapeake Bay,” NPPC said on its website.

The coalition argued in its lawsuit the Clean Water Act does not authorize EPA to set standards for states.

The agency’s action is a violation of long-established federalism principles, the regulation is arbitrary and capricious and the TMDLs are based on flawed computer modeling, the coalition said.

The agriculture coalition expressed concern the Chesapeake Bay TMDL program will be used as a model for regulating waterways, including the Mississippi River, and could be used to limit the size of farms, force more burdensome and unnecessary regulations on farmers and restrict application of manure to cropland, according to a post on the NPPC website.

NPPC and the coalition, which are reviewing the Third Circuit Court’s decision, said such a “pollution diet” would cost taxpayers and farmers billions of dollars by the time it is fully implemented in 2025.