Call it the Battle of Chesapeake Bay. The war over legal interpretation of the Clean Water Act may reach the critical high-water mark next Tuesday – assuming attorneys representing New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance don't receive another delay from U.S. District Court of Baltimore Judge William Nickerson.
A Waterkeeper victory would likely unleash a tsunami of new interpretations of what constitutes air and water contamination from livestock farms and contracting agribusinesses across the nation. That's one reason the suit against Alan and Kristin Hudson of Berlin, Md., and Perdue Farms has drawn financial support for the defendants from more than 28 states.
In September, attorneys for the defendants invited the court to visit the farm and view the evidence through its own eyes. The motion was quickly opposed by the plaintiffs, noting that enough court documents and photos existed for the court.
"It's obvious to us that the Waterkeepers and Coastkeepers are frustrated with the turn in public opinion against them. They're now resorting to any measure to suppress the truth around their claims," adds Lee Richardson, president of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau. "Their opposition to the judge visiting the Hudson farm after they regularly flew over to get evidence for the lawsuit is unbelievable."
Even if Judge Nickerson rules against the plaintiff, University of Maryland School of Law's Environmental Law Clinic (lead law firm for the case) officials allude that the suit may be appealed. That's why fund-raising continues on both sides. For more background on this case, click on: Will_you_be_next .
Support efforts continue
SaveFarmFamilies.org, affiliated with Maryland Farm Bureau, continues to build fund-raising momentum in support of the Hudsons and Perdue. Over the summer months, the group sponsored a number of fundraisers, such as a tractor and truck pull and soybean field day reception and silent auction.
The organization also launched an awareness campaign resulting in hundreds of yard signs, a billboard, and a plane flying over Ocean City, Md., with a SaveFarmFamilies.org banner.
An upcoming fundraiser will be held on Saturday, Oct.13, at Hooper's Crab House in West Ocean City, hosted by the Worcester County Farm Bureau. Click on poster for details.
"The show of support has been incredible," says Andrew McLean, president of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. and a SaveFarmFamilies.org member. "People throughout Maryland and around the country have rallied together to make their voice heard on the Hudsons' behalf. We know that any farmer could have been the target of the Waterkeepers' frivolous lawsuit and we are looking forward to a favorable outcome to the trial."
Meanwhile, the Assateague Coastal Trust, an initial party to the plaintiff's suit, is using the lawsuit as a way to raise additional funds, points out Richardson. While Maryland's Law Clinic is handling the case at no cost, a recent ACT mailing claims that "the lawsuit has been drawing down ACT's financial resources, and putting a strain on our support of other worthwhile environmental protection projects."
"They essentially attempted to bankrupt a Maryland family farm with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees," contends Richardson. "Now they're trying to raise money off it."
"If they're genuinely concerned about the Bay," argues this farmer, "I suggest ACT rethink their relationship with the Waterkeeper Alliance or any organization that states a commitment to using 'hard-nosed litigation' to achieve their objectives. It's just a travesty to see money donated with the intention of helping the environment be diverted in this way," he adds.
For more on the lawsuit visit: www.savefarmfamilies.org