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Hastings authors measures designed to aid farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Several priorities, authored by U.S. 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 last Friday morning.

A Hastings’ provision in the report accompanying the bill encourages the National Marine Fisheries Service to re-write six Biological Opinions (bi-ops) that were previously developed using what he described as flawed science.

Several of these bi-ops include buffer zones that would prohibit what Hastings says are the use of vital crop protection tools. Buffer zones are areas 500 to 1,000 feet from any body of water or dry stream bed, “…jeopardizing production on 60 percent of farmland in Washington state,” he said.

The bi-ops, Hastings added, 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 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 in the provision he put forth would encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider the six existing bi-ops using this new process.

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 U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 321 to 87, and now is scheduled to advance to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

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