Bill on Duplicative Pesticide Permits, H.R. 872, passes Senate Ag Committee

The Senate Ag Committee passed H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, with a strong bipartisan vote yesterday. The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) were among many organization who were pleased with the passage of legislation that will remove duplicative new permitting requirements for pesticide applications.

“NCGA greatly appreciates the work of Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and members of the committee to pass this important legislation,” NCGA President Bart Schott, a farmer in Kulm, N.D. said.  “We are pleased to see both the Senate and House understand the significance of this bill and how farmers could be impacted by NPDES permits for pesticides.”

Committee Members took the action with a voice vote at a business meeting called to review the bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in late March.

When finalized, the bill will amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for applications of pesticides approved for use under FIFRA.

The new requirements emerged following a January 2009 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court saying pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation under the Clean Water Act.
The decision is set to go into effect in October following two and a half years of stays intended to allow agencies across the country to determine how it will be implemented.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the ruling will affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually – which will require a new level of paperwork and processing the federal government and few local entities are prepared to deal with.

If a legislative solution is not achieved when the new requirement goes into effect, farmers running afoul of it could be subject to fines of up to $37,500 per day.

“The NPDES permitting system jeopardizes the farm economy without providing any real protection to water quality,” Schott said.  “NCGA supports this common sense legislation and urges the Senate to vote in favor of H.R. 872 when it is considered on the floor.”

“We are happy to see the Senate taking action on this important legislation,” said Wayne Hurst, NAWG president and a wheat producer from the Burley, Idaho, area. “Wheat farmers work hard to comply with the extensive processes in place to ensure the products we use on our farms are safe. New requirements added by the Sixth Circuit Court would only create paperwork for us and government officials without adding any additional measure of safety for the public. We urge quick completion of this bill.”

H.R. 872 has achieved widespread bipartisan and bicameral support from Congressional leaders concerned about increasing regulation without environmental benefit and burdening government officials and farmers with new and complicated requirements in a time of tighter budgets.

NAWG staff and grower leaders have worked extensively over the last year to educate Members and their staffs about the problems presented by the Sixth Circuit decision and to help formulate a lasting solution.

Source: NAWG, NCGA