August 17, 2015

Providing Regulatory Relief To Farmers, Water Users

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Rural communities are under a substantial amount of financial strain and regulatory pressure and are looking for much-needed relief.  Bipartisan legislation I introduced seeks to help answer that call by dialing back duplicative and costly regulations associated with the federal pesticide permitting process.  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on which I serve, recently passed this legislation by voice vote, and work continues to see this legislation that willlift an additional layer of needless red tape through to enactment.

For more than 30 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory structure for pesticide applications under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, commonly known as FIFRA.   FIFRA governs the sale, distribution and use of pesticides, with the goal of protecting human health and the environment.  The statute requires pesticides to be evaluated (undergoing more than 100 tests) and registered with EPA.  Pesticide users must comply with agency-approved, uniform labeling standards.  Unfortunately, despite this federal regulatory framework already in place, a 2009 court decision forced EPA to begin requiring Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for certain applications of pesticides in or near water.  This duplicative regulatory requirement went into effect in 2011. 

As a result of this dual regulation, EPA has estimated an additional 365,000 pesticide users-including farmers, ranchers, state agencies, cities, counties, mosquito control districts, water districts, pesticide applicators and forest managers who perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually-will be required to obtain CWA permits.  This is nearly double the number of entities previously subjected to permitting requirements, costing more than $50 million a year.  

I led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing legislation to eliminate this costly and redundant EPA regulation affecting pesticide users.  S. 1500, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), seeks to clarify congressional intent concerning federal regulation of pesticides and codify longstanding interpretation of regulatory statutes after the 2009 court ruling imposed an additional layer of needless red tape on food producers.  The legislation would also direct the EPA Administrator to report to Congress on coordination among federal agencies regarding streamlining information relating to water quality impacts from pesticide use and registration and analysis of the effectiveness of current regulatory actions relating to pesticide registration and use aimed at protecting water quality and provide recommendations on any needed reforms to better protect water quality and human health.  In addition to fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch, 12 other fellow senators from both sides of the aisle joined me in introducing the measure.

We must have clean water, but overloading land stewards with paperwork and red tape is not the way to achieve this goal.  Far more can be achieved by working with producers and water users to institute sensible practices.  This issue is a prime example of an unnecessary, duplicative federal regulation impacting a variety of stakeholders in Idaho and across the nation that must be fixed.  Additionally, with the Obama Administration's recent CWA power grab, the problems and costs associated with this dual pesticide regulation will only become worse.  Congress must swiftly approve SEPA while we continue our fight against the inappropriate proposed regulatory expansion of the CWA.

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