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House, Senate split on ‘forever chemicals’ in farm bill

By Marc Heller | 06/11/2024 06:30 AM EDT

Lawmakers agree on the need for more research, but House Republicans are not backing help for farmers with contaminated soil.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a senior appropriator and Agriculture Committee member, wants the farm bill to include money for farmers dealing with "forever chemicals." Robert Bukaty/AP

The five-year farm bill unfolding in Congress is the first since “forever chemicals” became a major worry in agriculture — and lawmakers appear far apart on how to address the issue.

Legislation would add the chemicals — called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS — to a list of high-priority research topics at the Department of Agriculture.

But the House measure falls short of calls from Democrats and some environmental groups for significant funding to help farmers who’ve lost crops or livestock because of PFAS contamination in the soil.

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That makes the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee — and eventually a House-Senate conference committee — the next battleground. The last five-year farm bill was enacted in 2018 and extended a year to expire Sept. 30.

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