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Chairman Roberts: Interior Appropriations Bill Addresses EPA Funded Billboards Attacking Agriculture

Contains Provisions Reining in Regulatory Overreach Impacting Farmers and Ranchers

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for advancing the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill which contains language he sought to halt the misuse of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) federal grant funding that supported an advocacy and public relations campaign with the sole purpose of denigrating agriculture.

“I commend Senator Murkowski for sticking up for our farmers and ranchers who were attacked by an EPA funded public advocacy campaign in Washington state,” Senator Roberts said. “We worked together to ensure report language in the appropriations bill included measures to hold EPA accountable and ensure better oversight of this grant program in the future.”

At issue was an advocacy campaign, funded in part by a $20.5 million EPA grant, by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission in Washington state. The campaign included billboards and a website attacking agriculture and urging state lawmakers to increase regulation over the agricultural industry. The use of federal funds in this instance is not only inappropriate but may be in violation of federal government lobbying restrictions. 

The bill directs EPA to update its federal grant guidelines to ensure accountability: “within 90 days of enactment, the agency is directed to update its grant policies, training, and guidelines to ensure federal funds are not used in this manner, including an update of the mechanism by which the agency tracks the use of its grants, and to provide the committee with a copy of its updated grant policies, training, and guidelines.” 

The bill also contains other provisions important to farmers, ranchers, and rural America supported by Chairman Roberts to block costly and burdensome regulations such as EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) final rule and attempts by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reassess the listing status of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

Roberts and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on April 5 sent a letter to Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., EPA inspector general, requesting an audit and investigation of the grants EPA awarded to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The inspector general has confirmed that it will answer the questions raised in the Roberts and Inhofe letter as part of an audit.