ATLANTA — A sweeping plan to control water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay must be challenged because it will ruin regional agriculture and become the model for similar restrictions nationally, the head of the nation’s largest farm lobbying group said yesterday.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said his organization plans to file a federal lawsuit today in Pennsylvania against the Environmental Protection Agency over its plans to sharply curb the flow of pollutants and sediments that have harmed the bay and its wildlife.
The plan sets a so-called pollution diet that calls for big cuts in the primary pollutants flowing into the Chesapeake: nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. It would be achieved in part by reducing the runoff of farm fertilizer and placing controls on large animal-feeding operations.
Cattlemen and growers have argued that it will cost them millions to comply with the plan and adopt practices that contribute less to pollution and erosion.
“This diet threatens to starve agriculture out of the entire 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed,’’ Stallman said, speaking at the opening of an annual Farm Bureau convention.
Stallman said state governments, not the Environmental Protection Agency, should decide how to regulate farming practices.
An agency spokesman did not return messages seeking comment.
President Obama’s administration backed the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan because of a lack of progress over the years by state governments to protect the waterway.