Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Goodlatte Criticizes EPA for It's Refusal to use Reliable Data to Protect Food Supply
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With one-third of approximately 9, 700 food tolerances to be reviewed by August 1999, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture, at a hearing today sharply criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not establishing protocols based on reliable scientific data as required by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996.
The FQPA made some of the most significant improvements in food safety and pesticide law in decades. It requires the EPA to reassess one-third of the 9,700 existing food tolerances for pesticides by August 1999 and all existing tolerances in ten years. The FQPA directs the EPA to base risk assessments on the "best available" data on pesticides. However, the EPA's implementation has been inconsistent and absent of meaningful public review and comment opportunities. The purpose of today's hearing was to provide oversight and inject accountability to the EPA's practices.
"If implemented in a rational, scientifically justified manner, the FQPA will be a very good law! Unfortunately, the perception is that the EPA's agenda for the FQPA implementation is neither rational nor scientific," Goodlatte said.
"Unfortunately, it seems that the EPA is on the track to reject the need to explain what they're doing and how they're doing it to the public, as well as rejecting the opportunity to ask for the scientific data necessary to implement the authorities Congress has granted them," said Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
In August 1997, the EPA announced that two classes of crop protectants, organophosphates and carbamates, which are applied to approximately 70% of U.S. crop acreage, would be the first products subjected to reassessment. The EPA's methods in reviewing these tolerances will establish precedents for future assessments. However, due to its unpredictable nature, the EPA's review process has led to widespread concern among farmers that these pesticides will be banned, leaving them without an effective means of protecting their crops.
"As a result of the leaking of internal the EPA documents, there has been particular anxiety within the agricultural community that the EPA has pre-determined the cancellation of entire classes of chemicals before the mechanisms for making such a decision have ever been established," Goodlatte said.
"Our frustration grows each time we hear farmers describing the economic ruin they will face if the EPA continues with their current implementation of the FQPA. While some may ignore the farmers and ranchers of this country and push aside their pleas because they fear retaliation from extremists, I am here to tell you that our producers are the first and best stewards of our land. Their family's survival depends on productive land and safe food and drinking water. Why on earth would they be willing to endanger that?" Goodlatte said.
"After 23 months, all that we have to show for Congress' efforts to improve pesticide regulation is an unreasonable slowdown of the process to bring new, safer more efficacious products to market. This is completely unacceptable," Smith said.
"Congress encouraged the EPA through the FQPA to find newer, better and more accurate ways to review the tolerances of agricultural chemicals. We did not authorize them to implement an agenda that will jeopardize the availability of safe food for our children," Goodlatte said.
Goodlatte represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley. Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives.