Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) is seeking member input related to policy calling for science-based research to determine regulations, indemnity for land and farm products, and freeing farmers from responsibility for the cost of testing or cleanup of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants when the contamination was out of the farmer’s control.
PFAS are a large group of man-made, fluorinated organic chemicals, with perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) being the most well-known within the group. The chemicals are used in many consumer goods and firefighting foam and are the main components of water, oil, and stain repellants. Many everyday items such as clothing, cookware and food packaging materials contain PFAS.
PFAS and other emerging chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, gasoline additives, and others, are not currently regulated but some have raised concerns regarding their impact on the environment and public health. Some health studies suggest exposure to PFAS chemicals is associated with cancer diagnoses, infant development disorders, and endocrine and cholesterol disorders.
Recent science shows that these compounds do not break down in water and are persistent in the environment. Due to their inability to break down, these chemicals have been identified as a source of water contamination and can reach a farm through the air, surface, or groundwater, or land application of soil amendments.
Federal and state governments are now attempting to create an extensive regulatory regime to limit human exposure. Ensuing government actions to limit farm activities, seize farm products or designate farmland as contaminated can destroy a farmer’s reputation and livelihood. Studies on environmental and public health risks from emerging contaminants take years, and in the meantime state and federal agencies are under pressure to prevent potential impacts.
Efforts to reduce the spread of emerging contaminants are underway. However, legacy contamination may still affect some farms, and indemnification may be difficult if these substances were handled according to regulations in effect at the time or if the companies that used or produced the chemicals are no longer in business. There are also limited mechanisms for state or federal agencies to indemnify farms and funding such indemnification can be difficult in the face of budget constraints.
FARM BUREAU POLICY
AFBF Policy #547, Water Quality
7. Chemical Contaminants
7.1. Landowners, producers, or their lenders shall not be held liable for the cost of chemical contaminants cleanups, such as perchlorate and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), caused by actions over which the producer, landowner, or lender had no management oversight or control of decision-making.
7.2. We support:
7.2.1. Funding for research into the health risks and strategies for mitigating risks associated with chemical contaminants in water and food; and
7.2.2. Using the best available science and appropriate risk assessment for the establishment of health goals or regulatory standards and recommend the science and risk assessment used are sound and correct.
7.3. We oppose any legislation or administrative decision that releases the federal government (i.e., the Department of Defense) and their contractors and subcontractors from liability associated with pollution of their land, water, crops, livestock, or products by chemical contaminants.
- Is the current policy sufficient or should it be expanded, or improved to clarify our belief that landowners and producers, who passively receive PFAS on their property, should not be held liable for any PFAS contamination?
- If state or federal agencies determine farm products or land is contaminated and prevent their sale or use, who should be responsible for indemnification?
- How should indemnification be funded and paid for?
- Should farmers be indemnified if the standards for contamination are set by a private company such as a food processor or co-op?