Window of Opportunity Closing on Pesticide Permits

Senate needs to act to prevent added burden to farmers.

Published on: Oct 31, 2011

Without Senate action, the Environmental Protection Agency must move ahead to publish new pesticide permit requirements for spraying in or near water Monday that will take effect Tuesday. A measure to eliminate red tape, redundant permitting and burdensome costs, H.R. 872, has been approved by the U.S. House and Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., says Senate passage of the bipartisan measure is the best way to eliminate uncertainty regarding pesticide applications. He says the legislation is a real solution that will solve the problem permanently.

According to American Farm Bureau Regulatory specialist Tyler Wegmeyer eleventh hour efforts to provide legislative relief are continuing.

"We are in heavy negotiations trying to get something done by Tuesday," Wegmeyer said. "We just have to have the Senate act and are trying to get that happening. Deals are trying to be cut to find language to at least buy us some time if not fix it completely, so it's kind tooth and nail right now."

With a House fix already passed and no immediate action from the Senate Wegmeyer says the states will have to start to roll out the new permits Tuesday, raising the threat of lawsuits and fines for non-compliance. He says even if farmers don't have a permit or can't get a permit they may receive a notice of the intention to sue."

Wegmeyer says the timing of the new EPA permit rule at harvest and the time states need to comply reduces the immediate impact. But as EPA further refines the definition of waters of the U.S. to possibly include that in potholes and ditches Farm Bureau fears the impact could be felt broadly.

"That is happening parallel to this pesticide permit, is what is a water of the U.S.?" Wegmeyer said. "If EPA gets its way then a lot of farmers, a lot more farmers are going to come directly in the scope of this permit and having to get one because they'll be spraying over what they consider a water of the US."

According to information from the office of Senator Roberts, 365,000 pesticide applicators will now need permits to cover about 5.6 million applications per year. EPA estimates the permit will cost states, local entities and pesticide applicators $50 million and require one million hours to implement each year. Unlawful discharges, under the Clean Water Act, are subject to $37,500 per day in fines.