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National Grange and AG partners win big house vote on FIFRA

By Nicole Payla Wood - The New Grange (May/June 2011)

  JUNE 8, 2011 --

On March 31, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 872, a measure which seeks to repeal the duplicated regulation of pesticides and fungicides. National Grange joined the Chemical Producers & Distributors Association, Croplife America, the National Association of State Directors of Agriculture and other ag groups to lobby for a reduction in red tape and a clarification on which Federal Act should govern over the use of insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides. The vote of 292-130 was a victory for U.S. agriculture and a step in the right direction toward a legislative fix to repeal a series of ill-advised court rulings. 

For almost 38 years, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act or FIFRA, has regulated the application of pesticides over water. In the early 2000’s several court rulings were interpreted to require dischargers of these products to also obtain permits under the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES. 

Currently, the EPA is trying to finalize a rule for these permits and the courts have granted an extension for states to establish their NPDES programs. Although the extension provides more time for state water quality agencies to create a plan and hire staff, the new rule will increase the size of the NPDES program by 60 percent, while providing no funding to the states that have to implement the rule. State water quality and forest management services would have to absorb the costs of testing, data collection, permit development and issuance, as well as compliance assistance and training. Furthermore, this new rule could cause states to reallocate monies used for highly effective mosquito control programs, which unsupported, could cause major health issues for human and animal welfare. 

State entities would only be one of the groups affected. Although the EPA has eliminated some smaller farms from the new permitting scheme, there is nothing in the CWA that protects farmers, forestry folks or landowners from CWA citizen suits. Farmers and foresters already in compliance with FIFRA label usage could be exposed to a new liability and subject to fines, some of which are for mere paperwork infringements. 

The National Grange will continue to work on this issue in the U.S. Senate and pursue bill sponsors. The measure has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee where a hearing is expected early this summer.

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