Congressman Doc Hastings

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Hastings’ Measures to Protect Central Washington Agriculture Advance to the Senate

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Washington, D.C., May 30 | Neal Kirby (202-225-5816) | comments

Several priorities, authored by Congressman Doc Hastings, that help preserve the ability of Central Washington growers to continue farming were included in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015. The bill passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support early Friday morning.

A Hastings provision in the report accompanying the bill encourages the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to re-write six Biological Opinions (bi-ops) that were previously developed using flawed science. Several of these bi-ops include buffer zones that would prohibit the use of vital crop protection tools 500 to 1,000 feet from any body of water or dry stream bed, jeopardizing production on sixty percent of farmland in Washington state. The bi-ops would also put human health at risk by restricting the ability to control disease-carrying mosquito populations.

“Our farmers deserve for their federal government to take the time to develop sound policies that are based on the best available science, instead of flawed regulations that are rushed through because of expediency,” said Congressman Hastings. “The National Research Council and the Fourth Circuit Court have affirmed that these biological opinions are baseless. It’s time for NMFS to go back and fix these bi-ops, instead of imposing defective regulations on our farmers that make it more difficult for them to do their jobs.”

Following a report released by the National Research Council in April 2013 that called the science used to develop these bi-ops into question, NMFS, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a new process to assess whether certain pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides have an impact on endangered species. Hastings’ language would encourage NMFS to reconsider the six existing bi-ops using this new process.

Also included in the House-passed appropriations bill is a Hastings amendment that prevents the federal government from imposing questionable buffer zone requirements on Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) grant recipients. Local salmon recovery efforts are successful because they are community-based solutions. Hastings’ amendment, which was approved by voice vote, simply prevents the federal government from adding prerequisites before PCSRF funds are awarded, respecting the unique geographical priorities of agricultural areas and locally-driven solutions to salmon recovery.

“For the past 15 years, a large part of the success of salmon recovery in the Northwest and other states has been through locally-driven solutions funded through the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund,” said Hastings during debate on the House Floor. “My amendment will ensure that these funds continue to benefit salmon through on-the-ground projects, but without questionable buffer guidelines imposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a condition of their use.”

H.R. 4660, the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015, authorizes funding for federal agencies, including the Department of Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. The bill, with Hastings’ language included, passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 321 to 87 early Friday morning, and now advances to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

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