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Kristin Schafer

The Farm Bill is up — & it matters

Congress is taking up the Farm Bill again this week, and many issues key to our food and agriculture system are on the table — including how we deal with pesticides.

Earlier this summer, the Senate passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill. While flawed, the Senate bill was much better than the widely-criticized House version of the bill, which narrowly passed a week prior. A small group of Senators and Representatives are now faced with the task of aligning the wildly different versions of this national legislation.

No false tradeoffs, please

PAN joins hundreds of groups across the country calling on Congress to pass a Farm Bill that helps build a more sustainable, equitable food system. This is not just pretty language. Millions of acres of Midwest crops are being destroyed by dicamba this growing season — for the second year in a row. Dicamba is the latest herbicide linked to the failing industrial model of genetically engineered monoculture.

The pesticide industry is urging policymakers to double down on this chemical-intensive system that feeds their bottom line. Meanwhile farmers face growing financial loss and our food system is increasingly vulnerable. A lot is at stake.

As always in Farm Bill debates, much attention has focused on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a critically important food program that ensures food access for families — as well as markets for farmers in low-income rural and urban communities.

Unfortunately, some legislators are suggesting that to keep SNAP, we must cut small programs supporting sustainable farming and rural communities. We can’t allow this politically-driven false trade-off; the Farm Bill can and must support both.

Weaker pesticide rules? Really?

Additionally, hidden among the hundreds of pages of language being negotiated are proposals that would undermine our already-weak system of pesticide protections.

One provision would roll back pesticide rules associated with the Clean Water Act, a move congressional Republicans have been pushing for since back in 2011. The language would remove simple permit requirements for pesticides sprayed near waterways. We’ve stood with dozens of organizations again and again to block these efforts to undermine water protections, and once again we call on Congress to say no.

Another proposal would weaken pesticide protections for endangered species. Under current law, pesticide regulators must consult with federal wildlife experts when new pesticides are registered that could harm critters listed as threatened or endangered. The House version of the bill removes this step, increasing risk for many species — including native pollinators who are often harmed by exposure to agricultural chemicals.

Particularly concerning is Section 9101 of the House version of the bill. If this language is adopted, it would strip authority from local municipalities to put rules in place protecting their communities from health-harming pesticides. This would further undermine the ability of local communities to protect themselves, and could roll back existing policies already in place in municipalities across the country.

We join the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and dozens of partner groups across the country in strongly opposing Section 9101.

A people’s Farm Bill, please 

According to the latest national data, pesticide use is going up, not down. The evidence that these chemicals are harming our health continues to mount, with rural families, farmworkers and children especially at risk.

The Farm BIll should be helping us move away from reliance on these chemicals, not building loopholes to speed new pesticides to market. This is the closest we come to a national food and farming policy, and it should support a system that works for all of us, not just corporate interests. Here’s Iowan Patti Naylor with a farmer’s perspective on why this matters:

  From low farm-gate prices driving over-production and monocropping, to monocropping driving increased pesticide use, to pesticide use leading to worker and community exposure to carcinogens and more — it is evident we need a Farm Bill that actually works for farmers, rather than propping up a system that is heading full speed in the wrong direction.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on where negotiations land in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned for ways you can help us press Congress to do the right thing.


Picture of Kristin Schafer

Kristin Schafer

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