By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Sept. 30 – In the intensifying battle over whether congressmen or federal bureaucrats understand science better, House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-M) introduced legislation Wednesday to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA). The bill would block EPA from requiring permits for pesticide application when pesticides are applied consistent with FIFRA.

Peterson explained that his bill, H.R. 6273, “provides farmers and ranchers with the safe harbor they deserve in the application of pesticides. The bill relieves producers from a potentially costly regulatory burden that does little if anything to protect the environment.”

The proposed legislation echoes complaints which House Republicans raised Wednesday in their forum on “EPA’s Assault on Rural America.” For a report on that forum in which Ag Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) charged that EPA “often ignores science, common sense, and seems to care little about how its actions impact our hardworking farmers and ranchers ,” go to:

In the decades since Congress enacted the CWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has never issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the application of a pesticide. Instead, EPA has regulated these types of applications through FIFRA, enacted by Congress to control all aspects of pesticide registration, sales and use. The FIFRA registration process includes stringent requirements for a wide range of environmental, health and safety studies to establish the circumstances under which pesticides can be legally used in the United States.

In January 2009, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2006 EPA rule which specifically exempted permitting of certain pesticide applications from the CWA. In National Cotton Council of America, et al., v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, the court ruled EPA did not have the authority under the CWA to exempt application of pesticides. The Court's decision marks a pre-emption of FIFRA by the CWA for the first time in the history of either statute.

Peterson's bill would establish that producers who are in compliance with FIFRA requirements are not subject to Clean Water Act permits.

“The 6th Circuit decision overturned decades of policy and practice with regard to the sufficiency of FIFRA regulation,” Peterson said. “This legislation will make clear that Congress never intended for farmers and ranchers to meet additional permit requirements for pesticide applications under FIFRA.”

Peterson's bill has been co-sponsored by 12 members: Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Travis Childers (D-MS), Jim Costa (D-CA), Brad Ellsworth, (D-IN), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), Tim Holden (D-PA), Larry Kissell (D-NC), William Owens (D-NY), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Mike Ross (D-AR), AND Ike Skelton (D-MO).

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