Farm Bill 2018 Letter
The Sign On Letter (Also to be sent to Senator Todd Young)
Senator Joe Donnelly
720 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Donnelly:
As leaders of Indiana churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and interfaith groups, we are writing to draw your attention to the portions of the proposed Farm Bill that address the care of wildlife, endangered species, and our public lands. In particular, we would like you to oppose any attempts to cut Conservation Title funding or insert destructive amendments, like the ‘Poisoned Pollinator Provision’, or forestry provisions that prioritize logging over wildlife habitat, clean water, and outdoor recreation in our national forests.
All major religious traditions have creation care statements. Caring for creation’s health is integral to spiritual life and social justice. Jewish and Christian Scriptures portray a wise Creator who called a good creation into being, filled with vibrancy, variety, and beauty and gave humans the vocation of “serving and preserving” the Earth. In another example, Islam’s Qur’an teaches that all the earth, and all its creatures, belong to God and that humans may use but not waste earth’s gifts. So it is imperative that as faith leaders, we reach out to you today, on behalf of our planet’s wildlife, including its most vulnerable threatened and endangered species.
Congress has before it two starkly contrasting versions of the Farm Bill. In the House, a bill barely passed (20 Republicans joined Democrats in opposing it) that was full of attacks on conservation, our national forests, and wildlife. The legislation, as passed the House, was unfortunately used as a tool to undermine our bedrock environmental laws, destroy our forests, and push species towards extinction. One of the most alarming actions was the inclusion of several attacks on endangered species aimed at weakening the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the context of pesticides registration, known as the Poisoned Pollinators Provision.
The Poisoned Pollinator Provision (Title IX):
Does away with EPA requirements to consult with expert federal wildlife agencies on the impact of potentially dangerous pesticides on threatened and endangered species before allowing those pesticides to be used,
Weakens preventative measures to protect species, and replace them with cursory reviews of the impacts of pesticides on endangered species, long after approving their use (with most reviews not required before the 2030s),
Cuts the expert federal wildlife agencies out of the consultation process, severely curtaining the government’s ability to assess the effects of toxic pesticides on threatened and endangered wildlife, including Indiana’s whooping cranes,
Limits the ability of citizens to go to court to protect species from pesticides,
Does away with liability for harm or death of endangered wildlife when the EPA has already allowed a pesticide to be marketed and used. Congress has never waived this Section 9 liability for any class of actions and it is one of the most sweeping attacks on the ESA in its nearly 45-year history.
The decline of endangered wildlife often serves as an early warning sign, alerting us to wider damage done by pesticides. For instance, the decline of the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and other endangered species resulted in an investigation into (and eventual ban of) DDT.
Thankfully, the Senate approved a much more bipartisan Farm Bill, including a bipartisan Forestry Title, and without any of the Poisoned Pollinator language. We want to thank you, Senator Donnelly, as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, for hearing the concerns of Hoosiers about the House version of the bill and working with your colleagues to introduce a much-improved Senate Farm Bill, specifically as it pertains to conservation and endangered wildlife. We want to thank you, Senator Donnelly, for casting votes in favor of this much-improved version of the Farm Bill.
Still, as you are aware, the bill has a long road of negotiations ahead before its final passage deadline at the end of September. We urge you to encourage your colleagues to support the Senate version of the Farm Bill and to oppose any final Farm Bill that contains blatant and harmful attacks on our national forests – including the Hoosier National Forest — and endangered wildlife. Our faiths maintain that destructive exploitation – whether of natural resources, people, or other creatures – harms life today and impoverishes future generations. All the major religions with a presence in Indiana include doctrine supporting the notion of caring for creation. Religious Hoosiers who care about protecting endangered wildlife and its habitat, find that value firmly rooted in their faith.
We ask that you contemplate this as you prepare to cast final votes on the Farm Bill and stand with religious Hoosiers who believe Earth to be a gift from our creator, and as such, must be given the utmost care and protection.
The Rev. Jeffrey L. Bower, Associate Rector for Stewardship & Community Engagement, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Indianapolis
Michael Bowling, Pastor, Englewood Christian Church, Indianapolis
Thomas Wyatt Watkins, H-IPL Board Chair, and Pastor, Cumberland First Baptist Church, Cumberland