The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 this week. The legislation affirms that pesticide application for activities such as crop protection, forest management and public health is effectively regulated through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and does not require a duplicative National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The House approved the bill in March with more than two-thirds voting in support.

The Agricultural Retailers Association, along with other ag and forestry groups applauded the measure. ARA thanked its membership for contacting their senators regarding the bill.

The National Corn Growers Association applauded the Senate Agriculture Committee for passing H.R. 872 with a strong bipartisan vote. This legislation clarifies that NPDES permits are not required when applying pesticides according to their EPA-approved label. The House of Representatives passed this legislation in April. 

“NCGA greatly appreciates the work of Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and members of the committee to pass this important legislation,” NCGA President Bart Schott, a farmer in Kulm, N.D. said. “We are pleased to see both the Senate and House understand the significance of this bill and how farmers could be impacted by NPDES permits for pesticides.”

For most of the past four decades, water quality concerns from pesticide applications were addressed within the registration process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), rather than a Clean Water Act permitting program. H.R. 872 amends both the Clean Water Act and FIFRA in order to restore the previous regulatory framework.

Under a federal court ruling in 2009, pesticide applicators would have to apply for an NPDES permit if the chemical reaches a body of water, which could include ditches and culverts. Although NPDES permits will not provide any additional environmental benefits, the complex new requirements will expose farmers to potential citizen action suits for something as simple as paperwork violations.

“The NPDES permitting system jeopardizes the farm economy without providing any real protection to water quality,” Schott said. “NCGA supports this common sense legislation and urges the Senate to vote in favor of H.R. 872 when it is considered on the floor.”