Beltway View: Beyond The Farm Bill

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Jay Vroom, right, discusses the 2012 Farm Bill with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), center, and CWGN's Orion Samuelson, left.

Jay Vroom, right, discusses the 2012 Farm Bill with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), center, and CWGN’s Orion Samuelson, left.

While the 2012 Farm Bill currently takes center stage in agricultural policy discussions, its future remains in question even as I write this article in early August and we face emergency drought relief legislation. However, there are many other policy issues that may impact the crop protection industry, the distribution channel and U.S. growers. CropLife America (CLA), the national association representing the crop protection industry in Washington, D.C., is directly engaged on all of these policies on Capitol Hill.

Two of these key provisions were added to the House Farm Bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM), which was introduced on July 12. Whether these issues are brought forth as part of the Farm Bill or stand alone, they are worth watching.

H.R. 872 And NPDES Permitting

In 2011, the implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits promised duplicative and burdensome regulations for the nation’s pesticide applicators with no demonstrated health or environmental benefits. Due to an erroneous court ruling, applicators are now required to obtain additional permitting for certain applications to, over or near water, although these applications are already made in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Full nationwide implementation of the court ruling began March 1, 2012, and has added increased cost, paperwork and the potential for extremist lawsuits against applicators.

Congress has worked multiple times since the court ruling to advance legislation clarifying that NPDES permits are not required for certain aquatic pesticide applications. States are now working through multiple new challenges stemming from the implementation of the new permits.

Nevertheless, CLA continues to drive a coalition effort to advance the latest legislation, H.R. 872, and see it enacted by Congress.

This year, Congressional efforts to write new farm policy provided a new vehicle for H.R. 872. In the Senate, Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) led a bipartisan effort to attach H.R. 872 to Senate’s version of the Farm Bill. Despite bipartisan support for the Hagan-Crapo amendment, the amendment was not afforded the opportunity for a vote by the full Senate. Similarly, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee included a provision in FARMM that moves H.R. 872 forward.

While questions abound for the future of the House Farm Bill, Congress has demonstrated that they are dedicated to advancing the legislation. With support from Congress and continued advocacy from the agricultural community, we can find a legislative fix to this permitting quagmire.

Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA)

The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) is a piece of legislation which helps ensure a predictable and timely registration process for new crop protection products. The law is intended to provide additional resources for EPA registration activities and more predictable service for pesticide registrants. This means that growers will have access to new products in a timely manner while industry works in conjunction with EPA to register new products. PRIA is currently set to expire on September 30, 2012. Since PRIA was first enacted in 2003, all stakeholders – from registrants, EPA, the environmental community and growers alike – have realized significant measurable benefits.

PRIA reauthorization was also included as a provision in the House Farm Bill, providing another opportunity to advance the legislation before the September 30 deadline. Whether or not that legislation moves as part of the Farm Bill, CLA is optimistic that PRIA reauthorization will be accomplished in time. Reauthorization legislation has been delivered to Capitol Hill and efforts to gain Congressional support have been encouraging. All of the parties involved understand the implication of a smooth and streamlined pesticide registration process, and how it can help America’s farmers.

While we cannot predict the future of the Farm Bill and the path it may take, these two policy issues are of top importance to CLA, its members and the agricultural community.

Vroom is president for CropLife America, Washington, DC.

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