Lois Alt, a chicken farmer based in West Virginia, was threatened in 2012 with a $37,500 fine every time it rained on or near her property due to a federal investigation. The fine was mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the guidance of the Clean Water Act, which aims to ensure that certain practices are not detrimental to the environment.
The EPA found that storm water near Alt’s farm would come into contact with dust, feathers and manure before entering a local waterway. The EPA also found high levels of nitrogen in the chickens’ waste, which could threaten the water supply. Alt filed a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming that her farm is exempt from clean water regulations due to its small, independent size. She won the initial case, but an appeal by the EPA has brought the case to a U.S. District Court.
The West Virginia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation have agreed to intervene in the case in order to support Alt.
Ellen Steen, general counsel member of the latter organization, said Alt’s case has nation-wide implications.
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“We’re looking forward to helping Mrs. Alt defend her win in the Fourth Circuit. The outcome of this case goes well beyond one family farm in West Virginia. The issue of whether ordinary rainwater runoff from a farmyard violates federal law, just because you happen to raise animals, has obvious importance to thousands of livestock and poultry farmers nationwide,” Steen said, according to Farm and Dairy.
Bob Stallman, the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, has also pledged to stand by Alt during her court proceedings.
“Mrs. Alt has courageously taken on EPA not just for her own benefit, but for the benefit of other farmers. She refused to back down from her principles despite the best efforts of EPA and environmental groups,” Stallman said, according to the Inquistr.