Retrograde House Farm Bill Rolls Back Clock on Public Interest

Yesterday I joined colleagues from anti-hunger, health, labor, animal welfare, and environmental organizations to speak out against the sweepingly backwards, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (H.R. 6083) which recently passed out of the House Agriculture Committee.  As my colleagues made clear, this legislation should be radically improved, or emphatically rejected.  As it stands, it represents just one more in the series of attacks on public participation, health, and the environment we have witnessed all year.

So far, the House has voted over 280 times this Congress to upend, repeal, and dismantle our bedrock health and environmental laws. Yet hope springs eternal in Washington, so some imagined a Farm Bill that wouldn’t repeat this atrocious pattern.  But instead of a responsible Farm Bill and a forward looking policy for the 21st Century, we received a retrograde attempt to roll back the clock. 

The public doesn’t want dirty water, unregulated pesticides, plowed up prairies, and mowed down forests.  But that’s what this bill promises.   And we’ve already been told it won’t stop there.  The bill will be hijacked by even more extraneous provisions that attack the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and more. 
At the beginning of this Congress the public was promised more transparent, more responsive government.  This bill exemplifies the failure to live up to that commitment. 

It removes oversight of pesticide use and risks exposing the public to more dangerous chemicals.  

It shields genetically modified organisms from regulation.  This “shoot first, ask questions later” approach waives both the Endangered Species Act and NEPA in certain situations—two tools that make sure the public has input and that environmental and health concerns are considered.

It takes the same approach on our public lands.  The bill would repeal the public’s ability to understand and hold the government accountable for how their lands are used and how their money is spent.

In an astonishing overreach, it blocks state efforts to protect the public’s food supply and the environment.

In short, FARRM isn’t really a Farm Bill. It is another excuse to try and force through industry give-aways and dismantle our bedrock health and safety laws.  If it gets a vote on the floor it will just add to the roster of 280 bad ideas we’ve seen ultimately rejected over and over. 

The best thing to do would be to go back to the drawing board.  We owe it to our children and our communities to do better.