We appeal for enforcement of the state campaign laws, but find again justice is selective under this administration
UPDATE: PDC again rejected our effort to see that the Washington campaign laws are followed. We can only conclude that this administration considers it appropriate for the EPA to fund an overt lobbying campaign providing that it is managed by non-tribal members working for a tribe.
On January 19, 2017 Save Family Farming submitted a renewed request to the state Public Disclosure Commission to enforce state campaign laws against Larry Wasserman of the Swinomish Tribe, the originator and manager of the What’s Upstream campaign.
As the complaint makes clear, the renewed request is based upon revelations in the final release of documents from the EPA provided to Save Family Farming from our Freedom of Information Act request. The final group was released in August 2017, about 18 months after the request was submitted. Given was is without doubt the intentional delays in producing these documents, the initial submission to the PDC included the request that the agency withhold final determination until all relevant documents were produced by the EPA.
The letter to the Public Disclosure Commission (available below) provides this new and indisputable evidence:
– EPA staff evaluated the campaign and considered in lobbying
– Wasserman made clear the intent was lobbying when he pressured staff to allow the campaign to continue because of the short legislative session where he hoped to use the campaign to make an impact
– the staff halted the campaign because of its false nature and overt lobbying, thereby demonstrating that the claims by then director Dennis McLerran that the EPA had no authority to halt it was false. This was further shown to be false by the fact that it WAS halted by the EPA after one third of the members of Congress of both parties complained.
The Whatsupstream Assault on Farming
The Assault on Family Farming
Family farming is under attack. A coalition of extreme environmental groups and a Native American tribe are using taxpayer funds to turn public opinion against farmers with false accusations, exaggeration and misinformation.
The website “whatsupstream.com” tries to paint a picture of farmers as ruthless, uncaring destroyers of the environment, particularly our water. Photos of spawned out salmon are shown alongside images of farmers spraying fields and words calling for accountability. The message is clear, but that is only the beginning of the assault. The site’s sponsors make false accusations about dairy farms’ manure lagoons, wrongly claim farms are responsible for current shellfish bed closures and boldly claim farms are not regulated. The truth is very different. Dairy farms are highly regulated and regulations are well enforced. Our dairies are family farms not “industrial farms,” water quality problems causing shellfish bed closures have numerous sources, and proper manure lagoons leak very little and pollute even less.
It’s clear the intention is to turn public opinion against farmers. They claim public opinion surveys conducted on behalf of one of the sites sponsors show that voters in Washington are very concerned about farm practices and the environment. In fact, their own surveys show the high regard voters in the state have for farmers and farm impact on the environment was the lowest of all issues included in the survey. To make matters worse, these groups are inappropriately, possibly illegally, using taxpayer money to conduct their attack on farmers.
Why are they doing this? They may wrap their misinformation in an environmental cloak, but behind their efforts is money. Lots of money. A primary sponsor and content provider is the Western Environmental Law Center from Eugene, Oregon. This group works closely with a private attorney in Eugene who was formerly employed by this group and who has successfully sued some large dairy farms in Eastern Washington. When the Washington State legislature attempted to pass legislation that would give farmers holding state discharge permits the same legal protection as all other permit holders, this environmental group and their partners successfully blocked passage. You might ask, why are Oregon attorneys suing Washington dairies? It’s not because of poor environmental performance. It’s because Oregon law provides legal protection for farms complying with their permits, the very kind of law these attorneys vehemently oppose.
It’s sad and ironic that the attack on farming is cloaked in environmental terms. The fact is farms, and dairy farms in particular, have made huge improvements in protecting our water and environment. The 1998 Dairy Nutrient Management Act resulted in dramatic improvements in water quality demonstrated by years of water quality testing. In addition, many larger farms are installing manure digesters that recycle manure creating electricity and other useful products. Farmers are working closely with the federal conservation service to improve fish habitat, provide wildlife habitat and continually study and implement best practices.
In the northwest corner, Whatcom County, the farmland is squeezed between Bellingham and the growing suburbs of Vancouver, BC. The county has lost over half its farmland. Only one out of about 1400 farms could be considered a corporate-owned farm. All other farms are family farms owned and operated by often third and fourth generation family farmers. These farms host thousands of trumpeter swans, geese, ducks, beavers, deer, coyotes and much more wildlife. They stand as a last bastion against the suburbanization that brings the true water quality and other environmental problems.
More and more environmental groups are realizing, along with most of our citizens, that protecting our family farms is the best thing we can do to preserve our communities, our local food supply and our environment.
The efforts of the sponsors of Whatsupstream must be stopped. The fact that they are using an EPA grant to promote this dishonest and unfair attack against family farmers is outrageous. We urgently ask that all farm and environmental supporters contact their Congressmember and Washington State senators Murray and Cantwell and convey your concern about this use of your tax dollars.
The savefamilyfarming website has the facts about farming and how much whatsupstream.com and its sponsors get wrong.