A bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, which funds EPA oversight of the chemicals, passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced the bill on Wednesday after the American Farm Bureau Federation dropped its opposition. The bill still needs House approval.
Because of concerns about EPA farmworker protection rules, AFBF wanted language in the bill making it explicit that information gathered by designated representatives for farm employees could only be used for the health and safety of workers.
AFBF received written assurance from House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson that he would be monitoring the situation to make sure that growers’ rights are protected.
In a letter to AFBF President Zippy Duvall, Peterson said he didn’t share Farm Bureau’s concerns about the rules, but he pledged that “should demonstrable abuses of the designated representative (DR) provision occur, the House Agriculture Committee would exercise its oversight responsibility to review the WPS, in particular the DR provision, to assure protection of both farm worker and producer interests.”
The bill would ensure the farmworker protection and certified applicator rules remain in effect through Oct. 1, 2021, but requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the Designated Representative provision of the worker protection rule. That provision allows workers to designate someone to receive information on pesticide use by the farm where they’re working.
Udall blocked a previous version of the legislation in the last session of Congress, citing concerns about the agency’s analysis of chlorpyrifos and about its plans to lower the minimum age farmworkers and certified applicators could handle pesticides. EPA dropped its effort to revise the language last month, clearing the way for a PRIA deal.
Congress has reauthorized the current version of the legislation (PRIA 3) but farm groups have been clamoring for the new legislation because it raises fees and would provide “a long-term solution,” dozens of groups said in a letter to the House and Senate committees on agriculture in December.
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