Senate Ag Committee Passes Pesticide Bill

Legislation clarifies that NPDES permits are not required when applying pesticides according to thei

The Senate Agriculture Committee sent a strong bipartisan message in approving a bill that protects farmers from needing to apply for more pesticide permits resulting from a 2009 federal court ruling.

This legislation clarifies that National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are not required when applying pesticides according to their EPA approved label. The House of Representatives passed this legislation in April.

Earlier this spring, Republican members of the Agriculture Committee sent a letter signed by all Republican members of the committee to Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., calling on her to bring up and have the committee approve the House-passed bipartisan pesticide regulation bill, H.R. 872, as soon as possible. An October 31, 2011 deadline looms for compliance with the additional permit requirements or pesticide applicators may face penalties.

For most of the past four decades, water quality concerns from pesticide applications were addressed within the registration process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), rather than a Clean Water Act permitting program. H.R. 872 amends both the Clean Water Act and FIFRA in order to restore the previous regulatory framework.

Under a federal court ruling in 2009, pesticide applicators would have to apply for an NPDES permit if the chemical reaches a body of water, which could include ditches and culverts. While NPDES permits will not provide any additional environmental benefits, the complex new requirements will expose farmers to potential citizen action suits for something as simple as paperwork violations.

"The NPDES permitting system jeopardizes the farm economy without providing any real protection to water quality," said National Corn Growers Association president Bart Schott, a farmer in Kulm, N.D. "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."

House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill to the floor for swift Senate passage.

"I commend the Senate Agriculture Committee for advancing H.R. 872. I urge Majority Leader Reid to join this important, bipartisan effort and send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. The cost of inaction is far-reaching and significant, and would be a crushing blow to an already struggling economy," said Lucas.

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