WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 150 members of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) traveled to Washington D.C. seeking support from Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation on critical issues impacting agriculture.The farmers met with lawmakers and legislative staff to discuss a wide variety of topics, including the urgent need to establish a national standard to oversee the labeling of genetically modified food and legislation to force the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw a rule that would dramatically expand regulations over farmland.
The EPA/Corps rule, commonly referred to as Waters of the United States or WOTUS, briefly went into effect last year, but it is currently on hold due to a temporary injunction issued by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court.
“WOTUS ignores two previous Supreme Court decisions limiting the agencies’ authority to navigable waters, circumvents the wishes of Congress under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and dramatically expands the authority of the federal agencies to regulate farmland and other land,” said PFB President Rick Ebert. “Despite the fact that the rule is scientifically and legally flawed, the agencies have failed to voluntarily withdraw the rule, forcing farmers to seek legal and legislative relief.”
Farm Bureau notes that the House has already passed a bill that would force the agencies to withdraw the existing rule and begin a new process that includes conversations with farmers, builders, county governments and other stakeholders. In addition, a “cloture” vote in the Senate, which would have prevented opponents from using a filibuster to derail the legislation, fell just three votes shy of the 60 needed votes.
“Farmers will pursue every avenue possible to stop the implementation of WOTUS,” added Ebert.
On another subject, Farm Bureau members support bipartisan, House-passed legislation (H.R. 1599, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act) that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to completely oversee genetically modified organisms (GMOs), covering everything from conducting safety reviews of plants used for GMO food to all labeling issues, including the creation of a national voluntary labeling system. In addition, farmers are calling on members of the Senate to pass a similar bill recently introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts.
“A national system is the only practical solution to address food labeling, because a patchwork of GMO regulations on a state-by-state basis would be confusing, misleading, a paperwork nightmare and cost prohibitive… resulting in higher food prices, without improving food safety,” said Ebert.
PFB points out that the public has consumed GMO food for more than 20 years. Over that time, there has never been a single case of a human health or animal health issue involving GMOs. In addition, hundreds of scientific studies and health organizations support the safety of genetically engineered foods, including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
“There is a lot of misinformation, untrue claims and unfounded fear about GMOs circulating throughout our society. We need to listen to the concerns of consumers and help alleviate their fears by providing them with the facts about GMO food, including its many benefits,” concluded Ebert.
Other key issues discussed by farmers with Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation included the need for changes to the endangered species act to enhance transparency and accountability; enactment of new immigration reform legislation that results in a commonsense solution to address obstacles facing farm families; and tax reform to address the financial challenges faced by farmers from capital gains and federal estate taxes.