Subcommittees Seek to Reduce Looming Regulatory Burdens on Agriculture, State Agencies & Small Businesses

Feb 16, 2011

Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Jean Schmidt, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture and Rep. Bob Gibbs, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a joint public hearing to consider reducing the regulatory burdens posed by the case National Cotton Council v. EPA (6th Cir. 2009) and to review related draft legislation.

Under the court ruling, pesticide users, which include farmers, ranchers, forest managers, state agencies, city and county municipalities, mosquito control districts, and water districts, among others would have to obtain a duplicative permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the use of pesticides. Pesticide applications are highly regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The order of the court goes into effect on April 9, 2011. At which time, pesticide applications not covered by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit are subject to a fine of up to $37,500 per day per violation. In addition to the costs of compliance, pesticide users will be subject to an increased risk of litigation under the citizen suit provision of the CWA.

During the hearing, Members of the Subcommittees also considered draft legislation targeted at addressing the 6th Circuit Court ruling and eliminating the costly and duplicative permitting requirement.

"Having exhausted all judicial review options and without Congressional action, this order will impose a burden on the EPA, state regulatory agencies, and pesticide applicators, which will cost our economy dearly in terms of jobs. It also severely threatens the already critical budget situation facing government at all levels. It is particularly unfortunate that this court order imposes a new requirement that will imperil our water resource boards, our mosquito control boards, and our forestry and agricultural sectors, yet provides no additional environmental or public health protection." said Chairman Jean Schmidt (R-OH).

"This new Clean Water Act permit for covered pesticides stands to be the single greatest expansion of the permitting process in the history of the Clean Water Act program. EPA has said it can expect approximately 5.6 million covered pesticide applications per year by approximately 365,000 applicators ˆ virtually doubling the number of entities currently subject to Clean Water Act permitting," said Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH). "Requiring a permit under the Clean Water Act in addition to an approval under FIFRA adds delays, costs, and other burdens on both the regulatory agencies who have to issue the permits and those who need to get a permit, without increasing environmental protection. It also could result in significant environmental and human health impacts by hampering the ability to respond to disease and pest outbreaks."

"Today's hearing provided an excellent opportunity for us to better understand the potentially harmful consequences of the National Cotton Council v. EPA decision for state regulating agencies, agricultural producers, mosquito control districts, and small businesses across the nation. I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues to find a responsible legislative solution that ensures FIFRA remains the standard for pesticide regulation, and continues to protect the health and safety of our families and communities,"
said Ranking Member Joe Baca (D-CA).

Written testimony provided by the witnesses is available below and can be found on the Committee's website by clicking here.

Witness List:

Panel I

Dr. Steven Bradbury, Director, Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

Panel II

The Honorable John Salazar, Commissioner, Colorado Department of Agriculture, on behalf of the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Lakewood, Colorado

Dr. Andrew Fisk, Bureau Director, Land and Water Quality, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, on behalf of Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, Augusta, Maine

Mr. Dominick V. Ninivaggi, Superintendent, Division of Vector Control, Suffolk County Department of Public Works, on behalf of the American Mosquito Control Association, Yaphank, New York

Accompanied by Mr. David Brown, Manager, Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, Elk Grove, California

Mr. Norm Semanko, Executive Director, Idaho Water Users Association, on behalf of National Water Resources Association, Boise, Idaho