The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee last week approved a bill to clarify the Clean Water Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to ensure that crop protectants compliant with FIFRA do not require permits under the Clean Water Act.
The bill, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act, was introduced by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Companion legislation in the House, H.R. 897, was passed out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Historically, water quality concerns related to pesticide applications were addressed within the FIFRA, rather than a Clean Water Act permitting program, the National Corn Growers explains.
However, in 2009 a federal court ruled that pesticide users are required to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit under the Clean Water Act if the chemical is sprayed over, near, or into a body of water. Under FIFRA, all pesticides are reviewed and regulated for use with strict instructions on the EPA approved product label.
NCGA notes that impacts to water quality and aquatic species is included in every EPA review, and "requiring water permits for pesticide applications is redundant and provides no additional environmental benefit."
Because it would clarify that another permit is not needed, "this bill will cut some regulatory red tape out of the pesticide permitting process," said Chip Bowling, National Corn Growers Association president.
The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner said the bill follows Congressional intent.
"It is far past time for this issue to be dealt with once and for all. The intent of Congress has long been clear—FIFRA was always intended to regulate the registration and use of crop protectants and the EPA plays an important role in the process by ensuring that pesticides do not harm human health or the environment," Conner said. "Quite simply, under FIFRA, the label is the law. Those who do not follow a product's label are violating the law even without a clean water permit."
NCGA's Bowling noted that the bill comes as farm groups work to highlight concerns about water regulation under the Waters of the U.S. rule, which takes effect later this month.
"NCGA urges Congress to move forward with this bill, and to pass legislation to withdraw the WOTUS rule and require EPA and the Corps to work with agriculture and other stakeholders to rewrite the rule," Bowling said.