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Legislative Riders Poison House Farm Bill

For Immediate Release, April 12, 2018

Contact: Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0269,

WASHINGTON (April 12, 2018) — Rep. Mike Conaway (R- TX) introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives today reauthorizing the farm bill. In addition to addressing traditional agricultural and food policy, the farm bill has major implications for wildlife and our environment. The House legislation contains toxic riders, including a particularly egregious one that would exempt pesticides from key Endangered Species Act protections and others that would weaken species protections and severely weaken safeguards on national forestlands.  

Defenders of Wildlife President and CEOJamie Rappaport Clark, issued the following statement:

“The House legislation hijacks the farm bill. Important legislation has been turned into a vehicle for attacking bedrock environmental laws and damaging our wildlife and national forests. The severe overrides of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act would allow the killing of endangered wildlife and the dumping of pesticides in waterways, with virtually no legal consequences.

“A real ‘poison pill’ rider added to the bill should raise anew Rachel Carson’s warning in ‘Silent Spring’ issued so many years ago. The rider eviscerates Endangered Species Act requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the expert fish and wildlife agencies when approving pesticide use, while shielding the pesticide industry from liability for harming endangered wildlife. This reckless provision gives the pesticide industry a free pass to poison pollinators and hundreds of endangered and threatened species with potentially dangerous chemicals.

“In addition, the forestry title is a massive attack on environmental safeguards for clean drinking water, endangered species, forest restoration and science-based decision making on our forests. It exempts 6,000-acre-logging projects from even basic review and oversight under the National Environmental Policy Act—doubling the size of the largest existing exemptions—and adds a long list of new exemptions; directs the forest service to ignore impacts to endangered species and wilderness areas, when approving the use of these exemptions. What’s more, it exempts the Forest Service from important consultations with wildlife experts under the Endangered Species Act.

“Members of Congress interested in passing a farm bill should oppose these and other riders that will only serve to stop the legislative process in its tracks. Congress should craft a balanced bill that serves the needs of the agricultural community while protecting the fish, wildlife, and plants that depend on private lands and forests nationwide.”


  • The Farm Bill is the marquee legislative responsibility of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill about every five years. The current 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018.
  • The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal funds for habitat conservation on private lands. Two-thirds of land in the lower 48 states is privately owned, and more than 40 percent of that is managed for agriculture. Many species of conservation concern, including federally protected and candidate species, depend on private lands. Conservation of these lands is essential to their recovery.
  • Title IX drastically weakens important requirements under the Endangered Species Act that address the effects of toxic pesticides on threatened and endangered species including Pacific salmon, black-footed ferrets, and butterflies. This damaging language would exempt pesticide manufacturers and users from liability under Section 9 of the Act for killing endangered wildlife. It would also remove the requirement under ESA Section 7 for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with expert federal wildlife agencies to assess the effects of toxic and potentially dangerous pesticide products on endangered and threatened species. Instead, the bill allows EPA to make its own self-interested determinations regarding the impacts of pesticides on endangered species, and removes any requirements for the EPA to make those determinations within a reasonable timeframe. For pesticides that are already registered, the EPA would not be required to complete reviews until 2026 or 2033 and for pesticides registered after enactment of this language, the EPA would have four whole years after the registration date to complete species-related reviews. On January 25, over 250 conservation, consumer, agricultural and other public interest groups sent a letter to Congress opposing all efforts to weaken essential on-the-ground protections from pesticides for listed species. This title also undermines important Clean Water Act permitting safeguards for pesticides directly sprayed into waterways.
  • Title VIII exempts logging operations up to 6000 acres (double current exemptions) from safeguards under the National Environmental Policy Act.  It adds new exemptions, rolls back other safeguards under the current law – allowing for exempt logging in the back country and diluting resources away from addressing fire issues near where people live.  
  • Defenders of Wildlife developed recommendations for the farm bill. The priority recommendations are available here; the complete recommendations are available here.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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