FDACS: New Study Shows Significant FL $ Impact of EPA Water Plan

Gary Cooper Citrus, Florida, Sugar

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson says a just-released study indicates the costs of meeting proposed numeric water nutrient standards are going to be significantly higher than federal estimates.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated the annual costs of implementing its standards for acceptable concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen in water bodies in Florida will be about $35 million. However, a study conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, professors at the University of Florida Food and Resource Economics Department, and Soil and Water Engineering Technology, Inc., shows costs and lost revenues to farms will likely be over $1 billion annually.

There will also be significant ripple effects on suppliers and employees, impacting Florida’s economy as a whole by more than $1 billion. More than 14,000 jobs will be lost, according to the study. The final costs will depend on how many agriculture acres are actually impacted and how the standards are implemented. EPA has estimated that about 6 million acres of agricultural and forest lands surrounding water bodies will be impacted but the study indicates the number is more than 13 1/2 million impacted acres.

“It’s clear that at a minimum, we are looking at tens of millions of dollars in costs, lost revenue in agriculture and related industries, and higher unemployment if the EPA’s proposed rule is adopted,” Bronson said. “We believe EPA is grossly underestimating the number of farm acres that will be impacted and the indirect costs to related businesses.”

The study says EPA’s numbers are skewed because the agency has assumed that numeric water quality standards developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are already in place and the infrastructure necessary to meet the standards has been paid for and is also in place. However, that is not the case. DEP put the development of numeric nutrient standards on hold when the EPA settled a lawsuit filed by environmental groups by agreeing to establish federal standards.

“Given the economic climate in Florida, I think these impacts will be devastating not only to farmers but to all Floridians,” Bronson said. “Now is not the time to face the loss of millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs.”

Bronson is urging residents and stakeholders to voice their concerns while the public comment period for the proposed rule is still open, up until April 28. Written comments can be submitted several ways:

1. Go to http://www.regulations.gov
2. Enter “EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0596” into the search field and click “Search”
3. Click the “Submit a Comment” link either on the Search Results screen or the actual document details
4. Then type or attach your comment, enter any required fields, and click the “Submit” button

Email your comments to: mailto:ow-docket@epa.gov

Water Docket, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0596
Mail code: 2822T
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

All comments should be identified by Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0596.