ARA Testifies Before House Committee On The Impact Of EPA’s Regulatory Overreach

As Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) led a recent hearing and visited with ARA Chairman Billy Pirkle (right) after the meeting.
As Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) led a recent hearing and visited with ARA Chairman Billy Pirkle (right) after the meeting.

Many agricultural retailers feel the impact and expense of unnecessary and burdensome regulations on a daily basis. A growing number of these regulations are the result of recent actions taken by EPA. Today, ARA Chairman Billy Pirkle addressed several of these regulations and their negative impact on the U.S. agriculture industry and economy at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Pirkle also serves as the Senior Director for Environmental, Health and Safety for Crop Production Services (CPS).

To begin his testimony, Pirkle explained the important role agricultural retailers play in the production of crops needed to feed the nation and the rest of the world. He explained the variety of crop inputs retailers provide to their farmer customers and the additional services and consultation they offer to help farmers make the most environmentally friendly choices on their operations.

One of the first issues Pirkle raised before the House Committee was EPA’s decision to counteract a longstanding regulatory exemption for agricultural retailers and support the decision of the agency’s Region 4 office (covering the Southeast United States) when they began issuing citations to agricultural retail facilities for failure to report under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) when fertilizer was blended at the retail facility. The EPCRA statute actually applies to those who manufacture fertilizer and specifically exempts “fertilizer held for sale by a retailer to the ultimate consumer.” However, now EPA stated that custom blending of fertilizer was the same as manufacturing fertilizer.

“Nearly all agricultural retailers custom blend types of fertilizer at the retail site for farmer customers because farmers do not have the equipment to blend in the field. Furthermore, blending fertilizer is a different process than manufacturing fertilizer,” explained Pirkle in his testimony.  “In 1987, EPA concluded that Congress’s intent with EPCRA was to exempt a retail facility from these provisions because the general public was already aware of the retail sale and application of fertilizers.”

Later, Pirkle also explained that if a retailer had to meet all EPCRA reporting requirements, their permitting requirements under other environmental laws could also change. Trying to comply with all these requirements could cost a retailer an additional $30,000 per year, plus a $6,000 annual update.

Another key issue Pirkle addressed in his testimony was the requirement that pesticide applicators obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Clean Water Act (CWA) permit to conduct any pesticide applications. Pirkle explained that this is unnecessary since pesticides are already evaluated thoroughly by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The pesticide label, which includes use instructions for different crops, geographic regions and weather conditions, is approved by EPA, and the instructions are based on mountains of health and environmental data.

“A new NPDES permitting system would result in little to no environmental benefit, but could cost the industry millions of dollars to comply with these new requirements and leave commercial applicators and their farmer customers vulnerable to citizen suits,” stated Pirkle. “Legislation has been introduced called the ‘Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act’ (H.R. 872) that would exempt FIFRA-compliant pesticide applications from CWA permitting requirements.”

The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act is currently part of the House version of the Farm Bill. Pirkle explained to the Committee that it is critical for the House to take action on the 2012 Farm Bill prior to the upcoming August recess to allow time to complete negotiations with the Senate on a final conference agreement.

In Pirkle’s role at CPS, he works with his company’s staff and management to give direction for the regulatory support and oversight of regulatory programs for all of the company’s retail operations. His first-hand experience and regulatory knowledge made his testimony to the House Committee extremely valuable.

Other examples of EPA’s Regulatory Overreach that Pirkle mentioned in his testimony included the following key issues under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

  • Clean Water Act (CWA) Issue:
  1. EPA’s proposed spray drift guidance document that changes the legal standard found in FIFRA to an essentially zero-tolerance spray drift standard.
  2. EPA’s proposed guidance document to expand jurisdiction of the CWA without obtaining the necessary statutory changes or going through the formal rulemaking process.
  3. Numeric Nutrient Criteria regulations in Florida, Mississippi River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Clean Air Act (CAA) Issues:
  1. Dust regulation in the agriculture industry.
  2. Greenhouse Gas Regulations and the increased compliance costs to the suppliers of agricultural retailers, which would be passed along to the retailer and farm.

In conclusion, Pirkle spoke on behalf of agricultural retailers asking Congress to hold regular oversight hearings regarding federal agency regulatory and enforcement activities. He also requested that Congress take necessary legislative action to prevent EPA from over-reaching its statutory authorities in the areas highlighted in his testimony.

ARA and its member companies are strong stewards of the environment and continue to operate in an environmentally safe manner. ARA welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with the Committee, Congress and EPA to provide any needed statutory clarifications to improve regulations.

Video of Pirkle’s verbal testimony before the House committee is available here. Pirkle begins speaking at about 49:20 in the video. Click here to read Pirkle’s complete written testimony.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More

Trending Articles

Matt Hopkins15 Best New Agriculture Apps Worth Downloading In 2014
December 16, 2013
These latest agriculture apps are sure to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2014 and beyond. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Terminates Merger Discussions With Yara I…
October 21, 2014
CF Industries Holdings and Yara International have terminated their discussions regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
October 14, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Purchases Six Grain Elevators, Four Agron…
October 14, 2014
The Andersons has acquired Auburn Bean and Grain of Auburn, MI, which will increase the storage capacity of its Grain Group by about 13%. Read More
StewardshipThree Ohio Ag Retailers Honored With 4R Certification
October 13, 2014
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced its first three agriculture nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Eric SfiligojEntering Agriculture’s New Phase
October 13, 2014
The market’s giddy ride the past few years might be coming to an end in 2015, warns one industry insider. Read More
Eric SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More