The Senate Agriculture Committee has reported out a bill aimed at stopping what critics have referred to as an “unnecessary, duplicative layer of regulation” for pesticide applications for U.S. agriculture.
The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 or House bill H.R. 872 would restore the supremacy of another law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act or FIFRA. The new legislation nullifies a court decision that required EPA to set up a separate permitting system for applying pesticides to, over or near waters of the U.S..
“Policymakers in the U.S. House and Senate have come together in bipartisan support of H.R. 872, and the need for a return to sound regulation," said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of Crop LifeAmerica. “Ultimately the passage of this legislation re-establishes FIFRA as the leading legislation guiding crop protection and specialty pesticide products.”
A 2009 ruling in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals replaced decades of legal, legislative and regulatory precedence established under FIFRA and is adding a needless layer of regulation for pesticide applicators, Vroom said.
EPA has estimated that the new permitting requirements will affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators who perform millions of applications annually. If a decisive legislative solution is not reached prior to the Oct. 31, 2011 enforcement deadline, aquatic applicators without permits could be subjected to fines of up to $37,500 per day.
The National Cotton Council, which leant its name to the lawsuit which resulted in the 6th circuit ruling, called on the full Senate to pass H.R. 872 following the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee’s voice vote passage of the legislation.
NCC officials commended the Committee for recognizing this bill’s importance. The NCC also said it believes the permitting system is “redundant regulation, which provides little or no additional environmental benefits over current law.”
On March 31, the House passed H.R. 872 in a bipartisan vote, 292-130.
“That vote margin conveyed the House’ recognition of this legislation’s extreme importance,” NCC Chairman Charles Parker said. “The legislation eliminates a costly and duplicative permitting requirement for the application of pesticides.”
The Missouri cotton producer said there were fears that the bill would die in certain committees but Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., recognized this bill’s significance and moved it through a favorable markup.
Following the June 21 vote, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., issued a statement also commending the Senate panel’s action. He urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to quickly send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
H.R. 872 reverses a 2009 decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council v. EPA. This court decision vacated a 2006 EPA rule and long-standing interpretation that the application of a pesticide for its intended purpose and in compliance with the requirements of FIFRA does not also require a separate permit under the Clean Water Act.
EPA released its draft final general permit for pesticide applications in April and the court-ordered deadline for EPA to promulgate the new permitting process for pesticides was moved to Oct. 31, 2011.
“That permitting process is a direct result of a misguided decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the NCC vs. EPA case and would make farmers subject to an unnecessary layer of duplicative regulation,” Parker said. “The National Cotton Council disagreed with that decision from the beginning and worked vigorously to have it reviewed and overturned.”