The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Farm Bill Harmful to Endangered Species and Conservation Fails in House
The 2018 version of the major agricultural bill was criticized by environmental groups because it would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve new pesticides without assessing their impact on wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act. The bill would also have cut funding for land conservation programs by $800 million over the next ten years.
The vote didn't come down to environmental concerns, but green groups see its failure as an opportunity to craft a better bill.
"The House just hit the reset button on the Farm Bill," Dr. Melinda Cep, senior director of policy for the World Wildlife Fund's Markets and Food program said in a statement. "Today's failure offers Congress an opportunity to reconsider a bipartisan bill that reflects the needs of America's farmers and ranchers."
"A strong Farm Bill includes conservation incentives to give farmers and ranchers more of a free hand in protecting those American grasslands and wildlife habitats that have immense environmental value, but little productive value for agriculture," Cep said.
As Rebecca Humphries wrote for The Hill, the farm bill has historically been the driving vehicle behind federal funding for private conservation efforts. Since 1985, Congress has added a conservation title to the bill providing financial assistance and education for farmers and ranchers to conserve parts of their lands for wildlife.
The failed farm bill would have eliminated the Conservation Stewardship Program, which the National Young Farmers Coalition called "the nation's largest working lands conservation program." The program provides incentives for farmers to use conservation practices like water-conserving irrigation. The coalition pointed out this would have been especially serious given drought conditions in 11 Western states.
The bill lost 213 to 198 after a group of right wing Republicans, called the House Freedom Caucus, opposed the bill in an attempt to force a vote on their preferred immigration proposal, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. The bill includes calls for a border wall, additional security, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an end to diversity lotteries, an end to visas for family members other than spouses and young children and an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, CBS reported.
Democrats opposed the 2018 farm bill because it included a proposal favored by House Speaker Paul Ryan that would have imposed stricter job training and job finding requirements on food stamp recipients. Democrats said the proposal would have deprived two million people of the food aid they need and was not funded well enough to be able to provide the job training it required of recipients.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Lauren Wolahan
For the first time ever, the UN is building out a roadmap for curbing carbon pollution from agriculture. To take part in that process, a coalition of U.S. farmers traveled to the UN climate conference in Madrid, Spain this month to make the case for the role that large-scale farming operations, long criticized for their outsized emissions, can play in addressing climate change.
They're prepared from puréed acai berries — which are fruits grown in Central and South America — and served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, or granola.
By Elliott Negin
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.
The global population of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros has increased to 72 after four new calves were spotted in the past several months.