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.
Opening Statement of Chairman Lucas at Business Meeting to Consider H.R. 872, The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
Good morning. We have before us today a critical piece of legislation. It is the result of a bipartisan oversight process that began nearly two years ago and culminated in a rare joint hearing held last month between subcommittees of the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
I am particularly grateful to the Chair of our Subcommittee on Horticulture and Nutrition, Rep. Schmidt, for her leadership and dedication on this issue. I would also like to commend the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Rep. Baca, as well as, the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, Rep. Gibbs, for their efforts.
In the last Congress, Ranking Member Peterson and I each developed legislative proposals to address the problem created by an uninformed court decision in the 6th Circuit. If Congress fails to act, that court decision will become effective on April 9. The decision would invalidate a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation exempting pesticide applications that are in compliance with The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) from having to also comply with a costly and duplicative permitting process under the Clean Water Act.
EPA estimates that there are approximately 365,000 applicators and more than 5.6 million pesticide applications each year that would be subject to the Clean Water Act permit requirement. In response, the EPA has been developing a pesticide general permit for the states and territories it administers. There are 44 states that have delegated authority that would have to develop a general permit at least equal to EPA’s for applicators in those states.
By EPA’s estimates, the pesticide general permit will cost at least $50 million dollars per year for applicator compliance and an additional $2 million per year for EPA administration. EPA’s economic analysis, which is available on the regulations.gov website, acknowledges that the agency has yet to determine even a single benefit to be derived from this judicial mandate.
Following introduction of our individual legislative proposals, we requested that the EPA provide the committee with technical assistance on these bills to ensure that our legislation addresses only the problem created by the decision of the 6th Circuit, and, in essence, maintains the status quo of the regulatory interpretation EPA has maintained for over 30 years.
I am grateful for the help we have received from the EPA and appreciate that the agency has confirmed that the legislation is consistent with its technical assistance and that it does not go beyond fixing the concerns brought up by the 6th Circuit case.
The day after this legislation was introduced, the Department of Justice petitioned the court for an extension until October 31 so that the EPA can continue its Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations on the pesticide general permit. The ESA consultation process is in itself costly and time-consuming. There is no guarantee that an extension will be granted or that the ESA consultation process will not make this problem worse than it already is. Failure to act swiftly exposes our constituents to an onerous, costly and completely unnecessary regulatory burden that Congress never intended.
I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation and yield to Mr. Peterson for any comments he would like to make.