The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) joined more than 40 other agriculture groups in supporting the Government Litigation Savings Act (H.R. 1996). In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary, the groups explained how this bill would bring transparency and accountability to a flawed system that has led to the abuse of taxpayer dollars-and of countless farmers and ranchers who have had to defend their way of life against tax dollar-funded assaults by radical environmental groups. The signators of the letter respect the original intent of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA)-a leveled playing field between individual citizens and the powerful federal government-however, it has become a source of revenue for interest groups intent on halting sustainable production practices.
Through EAJA, wealthy radical environmental groups obtain federal funding to target livestock producers by challenging federal agency land and resource use decisions in court-usually not for substantive reasons, but on grounds of minor process decisions. As a result, producers are forced to pay multiple times over to defend themselves. On the one hand, they pay attorney fees as intervenors in defense of the federal government (especially in federal lands grazing cases); on the other hand, as hard working citizens, their tax dollars go toward agency operations budgets and toward filling the pockets of these vastly wealthy environmental groups with EAJA funds.
H.R. 1996 would prevent organizations whose net worth exceeds $7 million from filing for EAJA payments and require that EAJA filers show a direct and personal monetary interest in the action to be eligible for payments. It would also cap the exorbitant attorney fees these groups claim to be owed, which are often in excess of $300 per hour. Additionally, H.R. 1996 would require oversight and reporting of EAJA payments, as well as a Government Accountability Office audit of EAJA payments over the past 15 years.