Bill Would Curb Citizen Lawsuits Against Farmers

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported late last week that, “A House Subcommittee on the Environment and Commerce held a hearing Thursday on a bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of farmers from citizen-led lawsuits.

The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act has more than 60 co-sponsors, and was spearheaded by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. Newhouse, a former Washington ag director, told the subcommittee about a Washington state dairy farmer who were operating under state nutrient management plans, but entered into a consent decree with EPA. Then a third party got records on the dairy and it was sued under an environmental act.

“‘Our farming communities need to know the rules of the road. They need to have as much certainty as they can,’ Newhouse said.”

Last week’s article stated that, “Further, farmers should be encouraged to be proactive and work with regulators that won’t cause farmers to be subject to third-party lawsuits, he said.

“This legislation would not prevent EPA from applying regulations under Safe Water Drinking Act, Clean Water Act or other laws. But the bill would protect farmers who are trying to do the right thing by working with state or federal regulators on nutrient-management issues.”

Mr. Clayton added that, “Dan Wood, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, told the subcommittee that dairy farmers are regulated on both state and federal levels. Farmers should not be subject to citizen lawsuits if the farms are already working with regulators, he said. ‘But that’s exactly what happened in the Yakima valley in Washington State two years ago,’ Wood said.”

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