Farmers Voice Concerns Over Chesapeake Bay Regulations from EPA

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The Environmental Protection Agency held a meeting in Harrisonburg Monday night, addressing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and new rules and regulations that will be put in place to help lower the impacts of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in the water.

About 300 people attended the meeting, including Congressman Bob Goodlatte, but taking a look around the room, farmers took the majority and were actively voicing their opinions, questions and concerns with this plan.

Gerald Heatwole has been a dairy and poultry farmer in Rockingham County for 37 years.

He says when it comes to the Chesapeake Bay regulations, he thinks farmers are being hit the hardest.

"Farmers can be so easily identified and then picked on, and then it makes it a much more difficult burden on us as dairy and poultry farmers," says Heatwole.

Eric Paulson is the executive secretary for the Virginia State Dairyman's Association.

He says this "one size fits all" approach won't work, and they'd rather local government play a bigger role than the EPA.

"Look at the farm and find out plans that work for that farm individually. One thing that works on one farm will not work at a farm across the state, so we need to have decisions that are made in a local area that will make sense for that farmer," says Paulson.

Both men say last thing farmers need in a struggling economy is more regulations.

"Because if they go out of business they don't turn into forest land, they turn into more shopping centers, more asphalt, and more concrete, and unfortunately that's the worst thing for the Chesapeake Bay," says Paulson.

Heatwole and Paulson say farmers are an important part of the ecosystem and care about the bay, but their farms are much different today than years ago, and they'll continue to change.

"It's all working today, we don't really need the EPA coming in with their heavy hand that the federal government and the EPA usually works with," says Heatwole.

"Like I said in one of the worst economies we've had, we are still committed to this and we keep doing it and what we ask is give us more time, we've come this far so much, give us more time and we can get even farther," says Paulson.

Many of the farmers say they hope the EPA will notice how many people in the agriculture industry showed up to Monday night's meeting, and that the agency will really look at their comments and concerns before moving forward.

The public comment period for the EPA's discussion on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed lasts until November 8th.