Members Support Legislative Fix at Hearing on NPDES Permits

February 18, 2011 Bookmark and Share

Members expressed serious concern about the cost and liability associated with new and duplicative pesticide permitting requirements at a hearing held this week to examine the issue.

The hearing, held Wednesday, was a joint meeting of House Agriculture Committee’s and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s subcommittees with jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act.

Testimony looked closely at the process for issuing new permits, known as National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, and the logistical challenges the new requirements would pose for local, state and federal regulators.

The new requirements emanated from a January 2009 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that said pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation under the Clean Water Act, meaning producers would need additional permitting for every crop protection application.

The decision is set to go into effect on April 9 following a two-year stay intended to allow local and federal government agencies to set up processes to implement it.

Many Members speaking at the hearing highlighted the urgency of Congressional action on this problem, noting that liability for farmers would begin on April 9 regardless of if individual states are prepared to implement the new regulations.

After the deadlines passes, unless they obtain an NPDES permit for every application, producers will have the choice of not applying pesticides or applying them and taking the risk of a lawsuit that could result in fines of up to $37,500 a day – enough to bankrupt nearly any farm quickly.

With the deadline for enforcement rapidly approaching, NAWG and other commodity groups have been working to set the stage for a legislative solution. NAWG’s government affairs staff has been deeply involved in efforts to reach out to key Members on the issue, set standards for eventual bill text and recruit cosponsors.

NAWG also signed onto letters sent this week to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) asking for quick action. Additionally, the Pesticide Policy Coalition, of which NAWG is a member, also submitted comments for the House hearing’s record.

A discussion draft of a bill is prepared that would make clear that if a user is following an approved pesticide label under the auspices of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), then the user would be in compliance with the Clean Water Act as well.

To help speed its passage, ag leaders in the House are working to gain an additional 50 Democratic cosponsors and at least 151 cosponsors overall before introducing the bill.

Extensive information about the bill is available under “Related Resources” at www.wheatworld.org/environmentalregulation.

Testimony from this week’s hearing is at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1313.