Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018

This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill.

As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues.

President Obama once referred to the current (2014) Farm Bill as a "Swiss Army knife" because of the many areas of American life that it touches. Another way to think of the omnibus legislation, passed roughly every four to five years, is as a food security bill.

Food security is a helpful framework to foster improved policy coherence in the next Farm Bill across a breadth of policy areas. A food-secure Farm Bill is one that provides for effective conservation on agricultural working lands, strong rural economies, and healthy food access for all Americans. In order to attain food security, the various titles of the Farm Bill need to work together, but in reality, fundamental inconsistencies exist among the legislation's titles.

For example, the Farm Bill's crop insurance "safety net" title, as implemented, rewards poor stewardship while the law's conservation title tries to address environmental harms caused by that agricultural production. The conservation title does this by authorizing and funding voluntary programs that provide ...

Turning Power Over to States Won't Improve Protection for Endangered Species

by Alejandro Camacho | January 11, 2018
Professor Michael Robinson-Dorn of the University of California, Irvine co-authored this article with Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and University of California, Irvine Professor Alejandro Camacho. It originally appeared in The Conversation on January 11, 2018. Since the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973, the U.S. government has played a critical role in protecting endangered and threatened species. But while the law is overwhelmingly popular with the American public, critics in Congress are proposing to significantly reduce federal ...

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

by Matthew Freeman | December 28, 2017
CPR’s Member Scholars and staff rounded out a prolific year of op-ed writing with pieces covering several topics, touching on the Endangered Species Act, the scuttling of criminal justice reform, saving the Chesapeake Bay, the Administration’s efforts to unravel the Clean Power Plan, and the tax bill President Trump signed into law last week. You can read all 46 of this year's op-eds here, but here’s a brief roundup of the latest: In an October 29, 2017, piece in The Hill, Bill ...

New Report: Three Fundamental Flaws in Maryland's Water Pollution Trading Regulations

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2017
On December 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment published its long-awaited nutrient trading regulations, capping more than two years of effort to develop a comprehensive environmental market intended to reduce the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.  A trading market would allow people, companies, and governments required by law to reduce the amount of pollution they discharge to purchase "credits" for pollution reduction efforts undertaken by someone else. In theory, water pollution trading ensures overall ...

Trump Speech on Deregulation, Fall Unified Agenda Continue Dangerous Assault on Our Safeguards

by James Goodwin | December 15, 2017
This post was originally released as a press statement on December 14 in response to President Donald Trump's speech on deregulation and his administration's Fall 2017 Unified Agenda. Starting on Day One, the Trump administration has perpetrated an all-out assault on essential public safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and American families' financial security, and today, the president took the time to revel in all the damage he has overseen. The administration's anti-safeguard agenda for the coming year promises more ...

Reno Gazette-Journal Op-Ed: Don’t Toss Out Cooperation in the West’s Sage Country

by Dan Rohlf | December 12, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal. During the holiday season, many people put significant effort into plans for getting along with one another at family gatherings. Seating plans are carefully strategized and touchy subjects avoided. We’ve learned that enjoying our shared holiday demands that we all compromise a little. Plans for cooperation in managing the vast shrub-steppe plains of the American West – including thousands of acres in Nevada – are no different. A few years ago, conflict ...

Looking Back on Lucas

by Daniel Farber | December 11, 2017
Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Commission was the high-water mark of the Supreme Court's expansion of the takings clause, which makes it unconstitutional for the government to take private property without compensation. Lucas epitomized the late Justice Scalia's crusade to limit government regulation of property. The decision left environmentalists and regulators quaking in their boots, especially because of its possible impact on protection for wetlands and habitat for endangered species. Ultimately, however, Scalia failed to make a compelling case for ...

Clean Water Laws Need to Catch Up with Science

by Evan Isaacson | November 29, 2017
The field of environmental law often involves tangential explorations of scientific concepts. Lately, one scientific term – hydrologic connectivity – seems to keep finding its way into much of my work. As for many others, this principle of hydrology became familiar to me thanks to its place at the center of one of the biggest fights in the history of environmental law, spilling onto the front pages and into the public consciousness.  Over the last several decades, a pair of ...

North Carolina v. Chemours: Early Reflections on an Ongoing State Environmental Enforcement Case

by Joel Mintz | November 27, 2017
The Trump EPA's shrinking commitment to enforcement of the nation's environmental laws has focused new attention on state-level enforcement and the extent to which it does or does not address problems of environmental pollution and threats to public health. One recent – and ongoing – controversy, involving toxic chemical contamination of a river in North Carolina by a large and profitable corporation, provides some insights into both the promise and the shortcomings of state environmental law enforcement. It also sheds ...

New Report: Toxic Industrial Stormwater Widespread, Maryland Enforcement Seldom Seen

by David Flores | November 16, 2017
Those who take public safeguards seriously are well aware of the potential consequences that arise from the dangerous combination of poorly written pollution permits and lax – even absent – enforcement. From construction sites with failing erosion and sediment controls to ammonia and bacteria-spewing concentrated animal feeding operations, our waterways, their users, and vulnerable populations in the pathway of pollution suffer the consequences. Starting today, we add industrial stormwater to the ignoble list of poorly regulated sources of environmental pollution ...

CPR Member Scholar Hammond Brings a Real EPA 'Back to Basics' Lesson to Senate

by James Goodwin | November 14, 2017
Today, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond is testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing that will examine four bills that amount to "rifle shot" attacks on the Clean Air Act's public health and environmental protections. Hammond's testimony before the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee casts in powerful terms what is at stake with these bills, highlighting how they contribute to the Trump administration's own assault on public safeguards. She also explains ...

Is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Focused on Getting 'Back to Basics' or Slashing and Burning Our Environmental Protections?

by Brian Gumm | November 06, 2017
In an article just published in the Environmental Law Institute's Environmental Law Reporter, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Bob Sussman examines the tenure of Administrator Scott Pruitt thus far. I recently talked with Mr. Sussman about Pruitt's so-called "back to basics" approach at EPA, the rollbacks of environmental protections he has overseen so far, and Pruitt's numerous favors for special interests.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has made a big deal out of his "back to basics" mantra at the ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Trump Administration's Clean Power Plan Repeal Proposal Is Illegal

by William Buzbee | October 30, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. The Trump administration's efforts to sidestep finalized regulations through stays or delays have so far met with judicial rejection in three straight decisions. As these courts have concluded, such a deregulatory strategy violates settled law that administrative agencies are bound by their own finalized regulations until they undo them through a new full rulemaking process. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt last week published a proposal to repeal the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan ...

Dear Congress: EPA's TSCA Implementation Has Gone Awry

by Katie Tracy | October 19, 2017
Individuals across the United States encounter hundreds of chemical substances every day and often simultaneously – in common household and hygiene products, in our food and drinking water, and in our air. Some of these chemicals present serious risks to our health and the environment and a heightened risk of harm for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. To this day, we are largely unprotected from all manner of chemical exposures, including chemicals widely known ...

CPR's Latest Op-Eds Take on the Assault on Our Safeguards

by Matthew Freeman | October 16, 2017
CPR's Member Scholars and staff have continued to appear in the nation's op-ed pages to expose the ongoing assault on our safeguards by President Trump and Congress. Among recent examples: Dan Farber's July 5 article in The Hill highlighted the many flaws in legislation introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) designed to encumber the development of regulatory safeguards. In "Tangling life-saving regulations in red tape," Farber writes, "[T]he bill would impose needlessly complex procedures that will ...

Foreseeable Yet Lamentable: Pruitt's Attack on Carbon Restrictions

by Daniel Farber | October 10, 2017
An earlier version of this post appeared on Legal Planet. Few things were more foreseeable than the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The administration was never going to leave in place a regulation that disfavored coal and promoted the use of renewable energy in electricity generation. The only real questions were when and how. Today, the administration is taking the first step with the release of a proposed rule repealing the CPP. EPA is relying wholly ...

Senate Briefing Highlights Need for Strong Federal Role in Protecting Endangered Species

by Alejandro Camacho | October 03, 2017
On September 28, I joined senators and Senate staff for a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Our discussion focused on the report I co-authored with my colleagues at the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources, entitled Conservation Limited: Assessing State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protection, which investigates states' capacity to protect and recover endangered species by looking at how these laws compare to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also looks at state and ...

Houston Chronicle Op-Ed: Burying Our Head in Sand on Climate Change No Longer an Option

by Victor Flatt | September 29, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Houston Chronicle. Every day during the Hurricane Harvey disaster, our hearts would sink as we kept hearing the word "unprecedented" again and again. Harvey wasn't supposed to strengthen so fast; it shouldn't have stalled where it did. Every day as we hoped the worst was over, Harvey would pummel us even harder. Everything was outside the norm, breaking all records. Over 50 inches of rain. Houston's "wettest month in recorded history." High river marks exceeded ...

Environmental Policy

The planet faces unprecedented environmental challenges. Heading the list of threats is climate change, but other problems persist, including air and water pollution, toxic waste, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife. In recent years, we've been reminded that many of these problems , in their way, magnify the harm from natural disasters.

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