By Stewart Doan

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 9 - On a voice vote, the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday approved legislation to exempt applications of federally-registered pesticides from duplicative regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

H.R. 872, The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, addresses a 2006 ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned an Environmental Protection Agency rule which specifically excluded permitting of certain pesticide applications under the CWA. The court’s decision preempts the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by the CWA for the first time in the history of either statute.

Facing an April 9, 2011 deadline to implement the judicial mandate, EPA has been developing a pesticide general permit to cover the 365,000 applicators and more than 5.6 million pesticide applications annually that it estimates would fall under the scope of the decision.

Ag Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., warned that failure to act swiftly on H.R. 872 “exposes our constituents to an onerous, costly and complete unnecessary regulatory burden that Congress never intended.”

By EPA’s estimates, the pesticide general permit will cost at least $50 million per year for applicator compliance and an additional $2 million per year for EPA administration.

The last thing U.S. agriculture needs is more court-ordered environmental regulation, stressed Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ag panel’s top Democrat.

“For too long we’ve watched organizations use the courts to twist laws against American farmers and agricultural production,” Peterson said. “If we don’t work together to find a solution, producers will likely continue being told how to operate by lawyers and judges who don’t understand agriculture. The courts are not the place to decide agriculture policy.”

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