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Crapo, McCaskill Introduce Bill to Provide Regulatory Relief to Farmers, Water Users

Senators say duplicative EPA regulations on pesticides prove costly and burdensome, yet provide no additional environmental protections

Washington, D.C. -U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) today led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing legislation that would eliminate a costly and redundant U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation affecting pesticide users.  The Sensible Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) seeks to clarify congressional intent concerning federal regulation of pesticides and codify longstanding interpretation of regulatory statutes after a 2009 court ruling imposed an additional layer of needless red tape on food producers.

For more than 30 years, the EPA has implemented a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory structure for pesticide applications under what is commonly known as FIFRA, or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.   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, and for users to 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. 

"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," said Crapo.  "Our rural communities are already under a substantial amount of financial strain and regulatory pressure and are looking to Congress for much-needed relief.  SEPA seeks to answer that call, in part, by eliminating the costly regulations associated with the federal pesticide permitting process.  This additional layer of regulation imposed by the courts has shown to provide little, if any, benefit."

"This redundant regulation is an extra burden for farmers and unnecessary for the protection of our environment," McCaskill said. "We do need to protect human health and the environment, but when we can achieve that goal with one permitting program it makes no sense to require farmers go through another whole permitting regime to achieve the same goal. This bill is a commonsense step toward a more efficient and effective process while still providing all the protections needed."

SEPA clarifies that CWA permits are not required for pesticide applications in or near water.  The bill also requires EPA to report back to Congress on whether the FIFRA process can be improved to better protect human health and the environment.

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 that 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.   

Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) are all original co-sponsors of the measure.