Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Subcommittee Reviews Methyl Bromide Critical Use Exemption
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Frank Lucas, R-OK, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development, and Research, chaired a hearing today to review the methyl bromide (MeBr) Critical Use Exemption (CUE) process under the Montreal Protocol. The Subcommittee heard testimony from two panels of witnesses including Claudia McMurray, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of State.
The Montreal Protocol revised its original decision to phase out MeBr use and production completely to enable exemptions for uses of MeB regarded as critical. The criteria to qualify MeBr use as critical were to be based solely on scientific review; however, recent meetings of the Parties in Nairobi indicate that the review process has become largely political.
“This brings me to my greater concern: the Critical Use Exemption nomination process is NOT a domestic regulatory action, but instead, the responsibility of our government to advocate for the true critical needs of its citizens. This process was embraced by the Congress to fulfill this objective and anything less than this from the Administration is completely unacceptable,” Congressman Lucas said.
Under procedures established in 2003, the industry submits its CUE requests to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs for review. The Office of Pesticide Programs then forwards its completed reviews to the EPA Office of Air and Radiation which, under the Clean Air Act (CAA), is responsible for MeBr phase out requirements. The final nomination released by the Office of Air and Radiation for 2007 was significantly lower than previous years.
“This is extremely troubling to me. For starters, I am told that during the review process conducted by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs; our constituents were led to believe that the 2007 nomination would be similar to our ultimate nomination for 2006. The reported difference between the expert review and final decision needs to be discussed,” said Congressman Lucas.
Congressman Lucas noted the Parties of the Montreal Protocol agreed to specific criteria that would determine uses that would qualify as critical. “This decision is important because subsequent to this modification, the U.S. Congress acted in 1998 to amend the Clean Air Act to conform our domestic policy regarding methyl bromide to these new requirements articulated in the protocol. I include this brief history to underscore the fact that by linking U.S. domestic regulation to the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. Congress had demonstrated a degree of trust that the international process would be credible and fair. Based on the reports that we’ve heard from the recent meetings in Nairobi and Prague, it would seem that the process thus far has been neither credible, nor fair,” said Congressman Lucas.
The Subcommittee will closely monitor the July meeting of the Parties in Montreal.
Ms. Claudia McMurray, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Burleson Smith, Director of Pest Management Policy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Ms. Susan Hazen, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention Pesticide and Toxic Substances, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.
Ms. Rebeckah T. Freeman, Director, Government Relations, American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.
Mr. James A. Bair, Vice President, North American Millers’ Association, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Daniel Botts, Director, Environmental and Pest Management Division, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Maitland Florida, on behalf of the Crop Protection Coalition
Ms. Michelle Castellano, Attorney and Vice President, Mellano and Company, Sun Luis Rey, California, on behalf of the Society of American Florists, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, and the California Cut Flower Commission
Mr. Rodger Wasson, President, California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, California
Mr. William Carey, School of Forestry and Wildlife Science, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama