Deadline is Drawing Near for Pesticide Permits

Farmers are concerned as a fight continues in the Senate over banning permitting that was ordered by the courts.

Published on: Oct 20, 2011

A court extension of a deadline for EPA to start issuing permits for pesticide spraying in or near water runs out in less than two weeks. So far efforts in Congress to provide farmers relief have faltered. American Farm Bureau Regulatory Specialist Tyler Wegmeyer says it's crunch time and a Senate fight over whether to ban court-ordered pesticide permitting by the Oct. 31 deadline has farmers a bit scared.

"The big issue is everything involved with getting a permit, but the other big issue is getting sued for potentially not having a permit," Wegmeyer said. "So this is monumental, it's never happened before; we've never had to have a duel permitting system to apply pesticides. That might happen unless we can get a Congressional solution."

Senate Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Subcommittee Chair Ben Cardin, D-Md., are blocking the House-passed Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act that would eliminate the redundant permitting process, and the full Senate nixed efforts by Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to include it as an amendment to other bills. Grassley weighed in on the issue during a call with farm reporters.

"Does Senator Cardin and Senator Boxer know that if you have aphids, you go out and inspect your field and if you have so many numbers on a leaf of soybeans you have to spray within 24 hours," Grassley said. "How long is it going to take the bureaucrats, 24 days to issue a permit to spray? I don't know if they are smart enough to know that."

Wegmeyer says without Congressional action, it will be up to EPA to ask the courts for another deadline extension as it did for the original April deadline. But he cautions there are no guarantees EPA will act.

"If I had to guess I would say they are a little bit less likely than last time to ask the court," Wegmeyer said. "Just because they probably believe that there are more states that are prepared to carry out that permitting function."

A federal court ordered EPA in 2009 to require permits for spraying pesticides in or near waters. Without permits, users could face fines and possible lawsuits. Wegmeyer says environmentalists may go after those spraying near even the smallest bodies of water.