For Immediate Release
House to Mark-up Controversial Farm Bill
WASHINGTON (April 18, 2018) – The House Agriculture Committee will mark-up H.R. 2, Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill) today at 10:00 a.m. In addition to addressing traditional agricultural and food policy, the Farm Bill has major implications for wildlife and our environment. The proposed House legislation contains anti-wildlife riders, including one that weakens or eliminates key Endangered Species Act protections as they apply to pesticide registration and use, and others that would further weaken species protections and critical safeguards for national forestlands.
Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark, issued the following statement:
“The legislation proposed by the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee hijacks the Farm Bill. This important legislation has been turned into a vehicle for attacking bedrock environmental laws and damaging our wildlife and national forests. Congress should craft a balanced bill that serves the needs of people that rely on Farm Bill programs, while protecting the fish, wildlife, and plants that depend on private lands, wetlands and forests nationwide.
“The bill undermines Endangered Species Act requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the expert federal wildlife agencies when approving pesticide use, while shielding the pesticide industry from liability for harming endangered wildlife. This reckless provision gives the pesticide industry a free pass to poison pollinators and hundreds of endangered and threatened species with potentially dangerous chemicals.
“The forestry title reneges on a bipartisan compromise to pass a fire funding fix, more than doubling the agreed-to exemption, and further attacks environmental safeguards for clean drinking water, endangered species, forest restoration and science-based decisions on our federal forests. It undermines laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
“The proposed Farm Bill is divisively partisan. It unnecessarily attacks environmental laws and will irreparably damage our national forests and wildlife. Given the extreme nature of the provisions in the bill, it deserves no chance of ever becoming law.”
- The Farm Bill is the marquee legislative responsibility of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill about every five years. The current 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018.
- The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal funds for habitat conservation on private lands. Two-thirds of land in the lower 48 states is privately owned, and more than 40 percent of that is managed for agriculture. Many species of conservation concern, including federally protected and candidate species, depend on private lands. Conservation of these lands is essential to their recovery.
- Title IX drastically weakens important requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that address the effects of toxic pesticides on threatened and endangered species including Pacific salmon, black-footed ferrets, and butterflies. This damaging language would exempt pesticide manufacturers and users from liability under Section 9 of the Act for killing endangered wildlife. It would also remove the requirement under ESA Section 7 for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with expert federal wildlife agencies to assess the effects of toxic and potentially dangerous pesticide products on endangered and threatened species. Instead, the bill allows EPA to make its own self-interested determinations regarding the impacts of pesticides on endangered species, and removes any requirements for the EPA to make those determinations within a reasonable timeframe. For pesticides that are already registered, the EPA would not be required to complete reviews until 2026 or 2033 and for pesticides registered after enactment of this language, the EPA would have four whole years after the registration date to complete species-related reviews. On January 25, over 250 conservation, consumer, agricultural and other public interest groups sent a letter to Congress opposing all efforts to weaken essential on-the-ground protections from pesticides for listed species. This title also undermines important Clean Water Act permitting safeguards for pesticides directly sprayed into waterways.
- Title VIII exempts logging operations up to 6000 acres (double current exemptions) from safeguards under the National Environmental Policy Act. It adds new exemptions, rolls back other safeguards under the current law – allowing for exempt logging in the backcountry and diluting resources away from addressing fire issues near where people live. On April 17, conservation groups sent a letter to Congress to oppose the Forestry provision in the Farm Bill.
- Defenders of Wildlife developed recommendations for the Farm Bill. The priority recommendations are available here; the complete recommendations are available here.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.