Capitol Hill Leaders Dismiss EWG

May 8, 2015

“EWG has no credibility.”

Farm Policy Facts has been saying this for years about the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and it looks like quite a few Capitol Hill leaders agree.

The direct quote above came from House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who spoke last week to Jerry Hagstrom of The Hagstrom Report.

Hagstrom further wrote: “If EWG ‘had its way,’ Peterson said, ‘the crop insurance industry would not survive’ and ‘100 people would farm in the United States,’ and they would have either deep pockets or tiny farms.”

Peterson was not alone in giving EWG a congressional smack down for its latest paper about prevented planting provisions in crop insurance.

Hagstrom’s May 1 article also quoted House Agriculture Committee chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) saying that EWG is “never going to be on the side of production agriculture. They take every opportunity to knife [farmers] in the back.”

Both lawmakers have a point. In typical EWG fashion, their most recent report simply combines sensational examples with old data and irrelevant information to make problems sound far worse than they are. And relevant policy reforms that address the supposed problems are conveniently glossed over.

For example, the prevented planting paper cites audits and data that are 10 to 20 years old, makes meaningless comparisons to crop insurance and direct payments although the issues are not connected, and uses a few egregious examples of waste from years ago that have long been corrected.

Furthermore, EWG spends very little time outlining the positive reforms made just last year to tighten prevented planting regulations — reforms that make it harder to receive prevented planting payments and practically nullify EWG’s entire critique.

Under prevented planting policies, farmers who are unable to plant a crop because of flooding can still receive an indemnity if they purchase insurance on the crop. EWG believes this encourages farming in environmentally sensitive wetlands.

But Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) explained to The Wall Street Journal that these criticisms “fail to recognize how recent important policy and legislative improvements will likely reduce future prevented-planting claims and protect marginal lands, including wetlands.”

North Dakota Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer likewise released a public statement shortly after EWG unveiled the report via a press release.

“EWG’s attack on farmers continues with their latest report on crop insurance,” he said. “The EWG’s report uses cherry picked data to fit their pre-determined conclusions in an attempt to eliminate the crop insurance program.”

Such sloppiness is reminiscent of a 2013 EWG “study” about rich corporate CEOs receiving subsidies.

Farm Policy Facts published an article about that paper, which noted that no commodity-related assistance had been received by any of the CEOs since 2008, when legislative reforms were made.

“EWG is republishing old and irrelevant data in a misleading manner,” Farm Policy Facts wrote back then. “In farm country where common sense is commonplace, folks don’t listen to people who continuously lie, intentionally misinform, or overshoot by a mile.”

In other words, EWG has no credibility.