Several commodity groups, farm organizations and administration officials, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have been pushing for a rehearing by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals of a rule that would require permits for pesticide uses even when applied in compliance with pesticide labeling laws.
However Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator of Water Mike Shapiro downplayed fears that farmers would need a permit for every application of every pesticide on every field to comply with a federal appeals court ruling that pesticide discharge is a source of pollution subject to additional regulation under the Clean Water Act.
"There are existing exclusions from permit requirements that are in the statute and not effected by the court's decision," Shapiro said. "They have to do with storm water runoff from agricultural lands as well as the irrigation return flows. Both are excluded from permit requirements even if they do contain pesticide residues."
Shapiro acknowledged that some aspects of the court's opinion may have broader implications. But he said EPA and water regulators in 46 states would try to create a general permitting system that doesn't disrupt agricultural production, doesn't disrupt public health protection, but still accomplishes environmental goals.
The announcement that the EPA would not seek a review of the pesticide ruling drew criticism from many and prompted several groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Cotton Council to file a petition with the Sixth Circuit asking them to reverse or clarify the ruling.