The principal leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are getting their share of letters now as members of the farm bill conference plan to meet Sept. 5 in Washington before they get to the meat of talks on finalizing the legislation.
On Monday, 107 House Democrats wrote the four Ag Committee leaders to share their concerns about the farm bill. "Simply stated, we cannot support any conference report that undermines investments in critical conservation programs or our nation's bedrock environmental laws."
Every Democrat in the House voted against the farm bill twice on the House floor -- once in May and once in June -- mainly because of the work requirements and restrictions against state income waivers that are included in the House bill.
Monday's letter, though, points to $800 million less in conservation programs and the elimination of any new enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Pointing to some of the benefits of CSP, including improved soil health, air and water quality, the letter from 107 House Democrats states, "Given the many challenges facing our American farmers, we should be working to expand our nation's conservation programs, not cut them."
The House Democrats also challenge 17 different provisions in the House bill, most of which benefit the pesticide industry by restricting local control of pesticides and making easier to spray pesticides by eliminating EPA consultations with other agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the Endangered Species Act.
House Democrats and environmental groups also argue some provisions in the House bill would eliminate water-quality protections for pesticide use and farmworker protections as well.
The 107 lawmakers also expressed concern in their letter for changes made to forestry management in the farm bill, which would come after more funding was include in the FY 2018 Omnibus spending bill to address the costs of fighting forest fires.
Lastly, the Democrats stated they opposed inclusion of the "King Amendment," named after Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would prevent states from blocking the importation of any agricultural good that meets federal standards. The King Amendment comes after states such as California and Massachusetts have implemented laws that require food products shipped from other states to meet their standards. The House Democrats argue the amendment goes further. "This provision would virtually wipe out critical protections for communities and farmers that govern food safety, and air and water safety, workers' rights, community health, food labeling, fishing, animal welfare, permitting, record keeping, invasive species, and procurement," the Democrats wrote. "Instead of trampling on critical consumer and farmer protections, we urge the conference to resoundingly reject this provision again as it did in the 2014 farm bill."
The full letter can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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