RICHLAND, WA – On October 9, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) welcomed the Western Caucus Foundation to Central Washington for its Fall Policy Roundtable: “When Agencies Weaponize Fake Science.” The roundtable aimed to bring attention to the negative impact of misguided federal government decisions and regulations on rural communities, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s mistreatment of the dairy industry in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.
As Vice Chairman for the Congressional Western Caucus, Rep. Newhouse moderated the roundtable, which included representatives from the Western Caucus Foundation, Washington State Dairy Federation, Idaho Dairymen’s Association, Darigold, and Save Family Farming, as well as Central Washington dairy farmer Adam Dolsen and fellow Western Caucus Member, Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID). Chief of Staff to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Mandy Gunasekara, joined the group virtually.
"I was grateful for the opportunity to engage with the Western Caucus Foundation, our panelists, and Ms. Gunasekara from EPA on an issue that has been affecting certainly my constituents in Central Washington and those in rural areas across the country: weaponized 'science,'” said Rep. Newhouse. “It is no secret that many of the legacy regulations put in place by the Obama Administration have burdened rural America, and you don't have to look far to find an example. In our region, regional EPA employees have been unfairly punishing dairy farmers for years, forcing several dairies to permanently close their doors – all based on a flawed report. We cannot allow federal agencies' regulatory decision-making to demonize whole industries, weaponize shoddy science, or rely on data that has not even been peer-reviewed. I appreciate EPA’s willingness to have these important discussions and their commitment to working with rural communities to achieve our shared goals of protecting the environment while providing for jobs and economic development.”
“Washington, D.C. has a long history of making decisions that pit East Coast interests against the needs of the rural West,” said Rep. Fulcher (R-ID). “Fortunately, the Trump Administration has a been a strong partner in pushing back on this lopsided status quo, but there is still work to be done. Unelected bureaucrats with their ‘we know better’ attitudes cannot continue to unilaterally dictate federal actions. I will continue to stand up on behalf of Idaho’s dairy farmers – and all farmers – to fend off these misguided assaults on our rural way of life. With partners like the Western Caucus Foundation, we can continue to solve problems for Idahoans and Americans in rural communities across the country.”
“In addition to informing and educating policy makers on issues unique to the American West, a key pillar of the Western Caucus Foundation’s mission is to ensure local voices have a platform in the face of federal bureaucrats’ outsized influence in our nation’s capital,” said Darrell Henry, Executive Director of the Western Caucus Foundation. “This roundtable was a perfect opportunity to hear from local representatives of dairy farmers in the Pacific Northwest and their frustrations with the weaponization of fake science by federal agencies. We commend the Trump Administration for its commitment to righting this ship and for its many efforts to respect the rights of individuals in the West.”
“Region 10 remains stuck in its position in allegiance with the environmental activists that are trying to destroy agriculture, not only in Washington state but across the nation,” said Dan Wood, Executive Director of the Washington Dairy Federation. “Instead of dealing with transparency and science, we have these dastardly political moves by EPA in the court room. Thank you, Congressman Newhouse and the Western Caucus Foundation, for hosting this roundtable, which will hopefully serve as a catalyst for the change Washington dairy farmers deserve.”
“Idaho’s dairy farm families have long felt that their voice goes unheard by many federal agencies,” said Rick Naerebout, CEO of Idaho Dairymen’s Association. “We are grateful to Congressman Newhouse and the Western Caucus Foundation for providing a platform for these important conversations with EPA and thankful for Congressman Fulcher’s leadership on behalf of the Idaho dairy industry.”
“My family and I – alongside farmers across the Pacific Northwest – work hard to produce dairy products for families across the world,” said Adam Dolsen, Owner of Cow Palace Dairy. “For years, our industry has been targeted by environmentalist groups and federal bureaucrats touting shoddy science. Congressman Newhouse understands that we need a positive change, or the American dairy industry will cease to exist. I was grateful for the opportunity to join the Western Caucus Foundation’s policy roundtable and begin having these important discussions with EPA.”
“When EPA makes the decision to attack an entire industry based off of false science, it affects all of agriculture,” said Gerald Baron, Executive Director of Save Family Farming. “We have been working to defend Washington’s dairy farmers from harmful regulations and unfair enforcement by the EPA, and this roundtable was another step toward ensuring relief for our dairy industry and for producers across the country. Thank you, Congressman Newhouse, for including us in the discussion and for your commitment to holding EPA accountable.”
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report titled, “Relation Between Nitrate in Water Wells and Potential Sources in the Lower Yakima Valley, Washington” (EPA-910-12-003) (Yakima Valley Nitrate Report) . The Yakima Valley Nitrate Report has been used to place liability on current dairy farmers for high nitrates in Yakima Valley groundwater. While dairies can and sometimes do contribute to nitrates in groundwater, overwhelming evidence shows that levels above EPA limits in this area are almost certainly the result of past farming practices and naturally higher nitrate levels in this fertile farming production land.
Cursory peer reviews were performed on the report, but the complete review was missing whole sections. EPA Region 10 staff refuse to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service complete a proper peer review, per many versions of the EPA’s own peer review policies. EPA Region 10 staff also had the designation of the study changed from “influential” to “other,” giving the EPA full discretion for the peer review process.
The Yakima Valley Nitrate Report has been used, without adequate peer review, to force dairies in Central Washington out of business and into financial peril. The report has also been used by an environmental attorney who has sued multiple additional dairy farms and used it to impose unprecedented regulations in Washington state.
On July 1, 2019, Rep. Newhouse requested that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler perform a legitimate peer review study of the September 2012 EPA Yakima Valley Nitrate Report. In a letter, Rep. Newhouse asks Administrator Wheeler to suspend the study from enforcement action and litigation pending completion of the peer review. Click here for more details.