The American Dairy Coalition (ADC), a farmer-led national dairy policy group, on August 28 sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting the Administrator complete a science review of EPA’s 2013 Yakima Nitrate Report. This follows letters from Representative Dan Newhouse, Save Family Farming and the Washington State Dairy Federation. The flawed report never received a review from independent experts as required by federal policy of government science studies that affect federal policy or impact the private sector.
The letter from ADC’s CEO Laurie Fischer noted the attempt by EPA Region 10 staff in Seattle to avoid the required peer review by falsely claiming the report did not require it: “This report, proven false by fifteen national agricultural science experts, was developed without the peer-review required on ‘influential science information’ as the study was categorized. When approached about the error, staff attempted to conceal the failing by falsely claiming the report was not categorized as ‘influential’, but ‘other’, allowing for full discretion in peer reviews.”
“We are grateful for the actions of this influential group,” said Gerald Baron, Executive Director of Save Family Farming, a Washington state farm advocacy group. “We are deeply disappointed that the current leadership of EPA at the regional and national levels are not following through on their stated commitment to transparency in science. The effort by this and other farm groups will highlight the lack of accountability shown by these leaders.”
ADC’s CEO Fischer also pointed to the possible political fallout from the refusal of the current administration to take action on this important issue: “Support for this administration has been strong from the farm community because of positive changes in the EPA. However, the lack of action in carrying out this scientific peer review may cause that support to wane.”
The ADC action along with the Congressional letter has helped bring this issue to national attention, Baron stated. “The Mielke Market Weekly” a national dairy industry newsletter by dairy reporter Lee Mielke reported on the ADC letter highlighting the severe damage done to dairy farmers in Washington state. Kim Bremmer, founder of Ag Inspirations and a member of EPA’s Animal Agriculture Discussion Group, interviewed Dillon Honcoop from Save Family Farming regarding this issue which aired on 100 radio stations on the Rural Route radio network in the Mid-West with an audience of 3.5 million.
“Farmers of all types across the nation need to hear about the abusive action of our government officials against farmers. Creating a false science study, then using it to take highly punitive enforcement action against dairy farmers cannot be allowed to stand,” Baron said. “Compounding that by making false statements about the failure to conduct a peer review goes beyond abuse to potentially criminal action. Such actions demand accountability.”
Leaders of Save Family Farming, working with dairy associations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, have met several times with Region 10 EPA staff and Regional Administrator Christopher Hladick. The organization has fully documented the unanimous rejection of the data and conclusions by numerous national experts including a former top agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service who determined the study was “fraudulent.” Details of this analysis, the analysis by fifteen recognized experts and documentation of the failed peer review and cover-up are presented on the savefamilyfarming.org website.