Monday, March 28, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: "Eliminating Onerous Regulatory Burdens a Top Priority" by Rep. Jean Schmidt

Rep. Jean Schmidt
By: Rep Jean Schmidt

Farming can be a tough business.  Seed is expensive, equipment is difficult to maintain, fuel costs continue to soar, and the weather is unpredictable.  Farmers do not need to add more unreasonable government regulations to their list of potential problems.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what will happen if Congress does not act before April 9th.

Pesticides play an important role in our lives.  As the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, has said, “When used properly, pesticides provide significant benefits to society, such as controlling disease-causing organisms, protecting the environment from invasive species, and fostering a safe and abundant food supply.”  But, using pesticides also poses risks and we need to make sure those risks are taken into account.

For more than 30 years, the EPA tightly controlled the registration and use of pesticides through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Under this law, a pesticide’s sale and distribution is prohibited in the United States unless the EPA has vigorously examined its toxicity and risks against scientific and safety standards and has approved its sale.  EPA also determines how it can be used and requires that approved uses and restrictions be placed on its label.  It is a violation of federal law for someone to use a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label.

Some thought that compliance with FIFRA just wasn’t enough, so they sued.  And, after many years, the courts decided that compliance with FIFRA is not enough.  Under this ruling, farmers – and anyone else who uses pesticides – would need to get yet another permit from the EPA.

If this ruling takes effect – which is scheduled to happen April 9th – pesticide users will be required get this extra permit, subject to thousands of dollars in fines for non-compliance, and threatened by the increased risk of lawsuits.  Requiring duplicative permits to use an approved product simply makes no sense.

I, along with a number of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, have introduced legislation – H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 – to right this court ruling.  This bill would protect the health and safety of our families and communities while ensuring that FIFRA is the federal law controlling the registration and use of pesticides.

Recently, two House committees, Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure, approved my bill in bipartisan votes.  But, there is little time left to act.  Getting this bill to the President’s desk will ensure that our farmers have one less problem to worry about.