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The Farm Bill Is Chock-Full of Anti-Environment Policy Riders

Politics
Lance Cheung / USDA

By Courtney Lindwall

The hyper-partisan farm bill, narrowly passed by the House of Representatives last week, contains dangerous handouts to the chemical industry and Big Ag. If enacted in its current state, the bill would have serious ramifications for small farmers, biodiversity, public health and America's hungry.


Leaders in the Senate are promising a better bill that supports sound agricultural policies. Well, senators, here are seven lowlights in the House bill that deserve special attention. Get your red pens ready!

1. Weaker Pesticide Laws

The farm bill would bar local governments from adopting pesticide laws that are stronger than the federal government's—something particularly concerning, considering the Trump administration's penchant for delaying and rolling back public health protections.

2. Contaminated Drinking Water Sources

It would repeal the Clean Water Rule, which clarifies which waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act's pollution control and cleanup programs. The rule helps protect streams that contribute to the drinking water supplies for one-third of all Americans.

3. More Polluted Waterways

Companies would no longer need a permit to spray hazardous pesticides directly into waterways that Americans use for swimming, fishing, and drinking—even though this is precisely the sort of high-risk scenario the Clean Water Act is meant to prevent.

4. Toxic Giveaway

The bill would weaken restrictions on methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide that has caused around 1,000 documented human-poisoning incidents and contributes in a major way to the depletion of the ozone layer. Past administrations wanted to phase out methyl bromide by 2000, allowing its use only in emergency events. The current farm bill would more broadly define what "emergency" means.

5. Hungry Kids and Families

The measure unacceptably targets some of the country's most vulnerable populations, such as families dealing with food insecurity. The farm bill would restrict the available nutritional assistance under the SNAP program, commonly known as food stamps, and could cause nearly a million Americans to lose eligibility. It also would weaken low-income kids' access to fresh fruits and vegetables in their schools.

6. Wildlife at Risk

The Endangered Species Act currently requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service before approving a chemical that could harm protected species—a rule that helped ban DDT and bring species like bald eagles back from the brink. The farm bill trashes the requirement, putting endangered species, including pollinators like the rusty patched bumblebee, at risk of deadly pesticide exposure.

7. Goodbye, Small Farms

The bill eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program, which promotes whole farm stewardship and sustainability in rural communities. To add insult to injury, it would allow mining and drilling on lands in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which is supposed to help preserve agricultural lands as working farms.

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