Unfortunately it seems only coincidental that the story about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding an anti agriculture PR campaign appeared on April Fools’ Day. If the insistence on WOTUS, the unending regulatory battles and general disdain between agriculture and the agency were not clues enough to see the true agenda of the EPA, some Washington state farmers aren’t being fooled any more.
In a story from the Capital Press on April 1, it was reported that two billboards in Washington that accuse farmers of polluting water violated a federal rule by failing to properly recognize that the Environmental Protection Agency funded the group that put up the signs. A coalition of environmental groups collaborating with the Swinomish Indian tribe put up the billboards in Olympia and Bellingham, Washington to promote “What’s Upstream,” a media campaign developed by a public relations firm to blame agriculture for water pollution. The groups used funding from an EPA grant to pay for the billboards, but didn’t credit the agency’s financial support, which is a standard requirement for recipients of EPA grant funds, according to the story. From the story, “The billboards assert: ‘Unregulated agriculture is putting our waterways at risk.’ A photo shows three cows standing in a stream. Farm groups complain these and other images used by What’s Upstream inaccurately portray farm practices in Washington.”
The Swinomish tribe has received EPA grants totaling nearly $570,000, largely to pay for the services of a Seattle PR firm, according to the Capital Press story. The EPA attests that, while grant funding was used for the billboards highlighting Washington’s water woes, no rules were broken because the message did not advocate for or against any specific legislation.
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, had this to say regarding the anti-agriculture billboard in Washington state funded by the EPA.
“This disturbing billboard is a bold example of exactly what America’s farmers and ranchers complain about all the time: the EPA has an agenda antagonistic to producers. Whether it’s overly burdensome and costly regulations or something as obvious as this this malicious billboard, the EPA has much to answer for in maligning those that grow the food and fiber to feed the world. Our farmers and ranchers are stewards of the land and want to see our natural resources protected as much as any other American.
“While there are legal concerns with the lack of disclosure of EPA’s involvement, the billboard is another example of EPA’s improper practice of encouraging the lobbying of legislators. How and why the EPA has allowed taxpayer dollars to be used to attack any industry, including our vital agriculture producers, demands answers.”