By Kevin Ridder
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed their version of the 2018 Omnibus Farm Bill that would roll back protections for endangered species, water and public lands. The Senate did not include any of these provisions in their version of the bill. The Farm Bill is renewed roughly every five years, and governs federal food and agriculture policy.
Under the House’s version, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would no longer be required to examine the impact a pesticide would have on species protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. Additionally, Clean Water Act permits would no longer be required for releasing pesticides into waterways. The center states that the pesticide industry has spent more than $43 million on lobbying this congressional session.
“If [this farm bill] becomes law, this bill will be remembered for generations as the hammer that drove the final nail into the coffin of some of America’s most vulnerable species,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release.
The House bill would also allow several new broad exclusions from the National Environmental Policy Act, which would exempt certain logging projects up to 6,000 acres from public input and environmental review. In granting these exclusions, the U.S. Forest Service would no longer need to consider the cumulative impact of several timber projects on a landscape. The agency also would not need to consider whether timber projects are within a potential wilderness area or if the projects would affect endangered or threatened species.
Additionally, the House bill would end or cut food stamp benefits for 2 million people by imposing a work requirement for benefit recipients, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This provision, which is not included in the Senate’s bill, is expected to be the most hotly contested item as the House and Senate work to reconcile their versions before the current version expires on Sept. 30.