The House Agriculture Committee approved a bipartisan bill March 9 that would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for pesticides approved for use under FIFRA.
The legislation is necessary to address the negative economic consequences of the ruling posed by the case National Cotton Council v. EPA (6th Cir. 2009). Under the court ruling, pesticide users would have to obtain a duplicative permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) by April 9, 2011, or be subject to a fine of up to $37,500 per day per violation—a potentially burdensome requirement for pesticide users.
"Without Congressional action, this misguided ruling would be a crushing blow to an already fragile economy. It would unleash a blitz of regulatory burdens on our farmers and ranchers starting with requiring an extra permit for pesticide applications, thousands of dollars in fines for non-compliance, and an increased risk of lawsuits down the road. I urge my colleagues in both the House and Senate to work together on this issue so we can send a bill to the President," said Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
In comments to the committee, Lucas added that more than 40 states will face increased financial and administrative burdens in order to comply with the new permitting requirement process during a time when many states are already being forced to make difficult budget decisions.
“For too long we’ve watched organizations use the courts to twist laws against American farmers and agricultural production. The courts are not the place to decide agriculture policy. This legislation is a step in the right direction to address this problem and make it clear that Congress never intended to burden producers with additional permit requirements that would have little to no environmental benefit,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Next, the bill will be considered by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as it is the committee of primary jurisdiction.
EPA requested to extend the Clean Water Act NPDES permits deadline to allow operators more time to obtain the permits. The current deadline is April 9, and the EPA has requested it be pushed back until October 31. Until the court makes a decision on the extension request, permits for pesticide applications will not be required.
"We appreciate the fact that EPA understands the complexity of these requirements and that compliance in such a short amount of time has the potential to have a huge impact on production agriculture," National Corn Growers Association president Bart Schott said. "We believe the court decision was an overreach and that additional examination is needed."
The bill has wide bipartisan support as well as support from agricultural groups.