Stories like this just absolutely make my blood boil.
The Environmental Protection Agency apparently thinks it is perfectly acceptable to freely hand out over half a million taxpayer dollars to special interest groups so those groups can spend the money on campaigns attacking farmers.
Turns out, that’s exactly what the federal agency was doing in the state of Washington.
Here’s the story: A bunch of environmental activist groups in the state of Washington have launched an advocacy campaign known as “What’s Upstream.” The campaign’s purpose is to bring awareness to the alleged water pollution caused by agriculture and encourage people in the state to urge their legislators to increase regulations on farmers. Turns out that at least part of the campaign has been funded out of a $3 million grant given by the EPA to the Northwest Indiana Fisheries Commission. Over half a million dollars from the grant was funneled into a public relations agency hired to run the What’s Upstream campaign.
The money from the EPA went to fund billboards, bus placards, and the interactive website. The EPA has admitted that the billboards were an improper use of the funds. The billboards, which were voluntarily taken down the day after the EPA’s admission, depicted dairy cows standing in a stream of water with the words: “Unregulated agriculture is putting our waterways at risk!”
Of course, the billboards are utterly wrong. In Washington, dairy cows are not allowed to stand in or drink water as depicted (ironically, no one behind What’s Upstream can seem to recall where such a photo was found). In addition, farmers are far from unregulated – a dairy farmer in Washington is regulated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture for nutrient management (a.k.a. manure management), state and federal inspection for milking facilities, and national dairy FARM programs for animal welfare.
Senators James Inhofe and Pat Roberts have called on the EPA to conduct a full investigation of the campaign and how the money was spent. They stated: “We are troubled to learn that EPA’s financial assistance appears to improperly fund an advocacy campaign in Washington state that unfairly targets and demonizes farmers and ranchers.”
This isn’t the only thing the EPA has done lately to put themselves, unfairly, on the opposite side of farmers. Of greatest public controversy, the EPA went forward with the so-called WOTUS rule, even being flippant at the concerns put forth by farmers. In that situation, it was also determined that the EPA violated the rule making process. Most recently, the EPA has tried to further expand their powers with the Chesapeake Bay project in order to sidestep a court’s order halting enforcement of the WOTUS rule. Let’s also not forget the incident where the EPA gave farmer’s personal information to animal rights extremists.
This is precisely why the relationship between the EPA and farmers is full of distrust, tension, and strain. I fully appreciate that we have a federal agency and corresponding regulatory scheme in place to help protect our environment. Farmers have a similar goal and there is absolutely no reason why the industry should always be at odds with the EPA. By means of contrast, the USDA is generally seen as being farmer-friendly, probably because it chooses to work with farmers, not against them. But when farmers see the EPA abusing its powers to blatantly – and illegally – attack our industry in such a dishonest way, that creates mistrust and apprehension.
The current administration has flouted the rules repeatedly and agriculture seems to be a favorite target. Enough is enough. I hope that a full investigation of this incident takes place, and I look forward to seeing the results. Nonetheless, using taxpayer money to fund erroneous anti-agriculture propaganda is not something that we will just forgive and forget overnight. It’s going to take time and effort on the EPA’s behalf to restore agriculture’s trust.
But, quite frankly, I’m not really sure they care.