Date: Apr 18, 2011

(April 18, 2011)—The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a field hearing April 19 in Salinas, Calif., to investigate how Environmental Protection Agency regulations and rule-making processes are affecting farmers. Led by committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, the hearing will cite specific regulatory processes that result in inflexible and impractical requirements without the benefit of the best available science, public review of data and serious stakeholder engagement. Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif and Senior Vice Chairman Mike Jarrard, CEO of Mann Packing Company, will be expert witnesses at the hearing.

“The system is broken,” Nassif said. “Lawsuits brought against the EPA and other federal agencies by environmental groups are reaping taxpayer-funded attorney’s fees and resulting in a de facto rule-making process that is harmful to farming and of questionable benefit to the environment.”

Many of these environmental lawsuits involve the Endangered Species Act’s strict mandate to protect species at all costs, inviting special interest groups to sue the EPA for not complying with the law claiming the agency does not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries when registering crop protection tools. But that “consultation” process is completely broken and results in rules and regulations that side-step the intent of Congress in regards to federal law. What’s worse: This de facto rule-making process is hurting America’s farmers, according to Nassif.

“The legal questions associated with environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act are never adequately confronted and answered and worse, the settlement agreements put in place have adverse economic consequences for agricultural businesses and jobs with no evidence of protecting endangered species,” Nassif said. “This is a defective way to make public policy.”

Many farmers believe the EPA is no friend of agriculture. In recent months, WG and others have brought the problems encountered between growers and the EPA to the attention of Congress. Last month, the House Committee on Agriculture invited EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to testify and both Republican and Democrat members delivered critical remarks and pointed questions. Congress is now listening.

The hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. in the Salinas City Council Chambers located at 200 Lincoln Avenue, Salinas, Calif. Read Nassif’s complete oral testimony online.

About Western Growers

WG is an agricultural trade association whose members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and about 75 percent of the fresh fruits and tree nuts in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation’s supply of fresh produce.

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