Congressional leadership is to be commended for their efforts to restrain EPA from initiating regulations that would seriously undermine U.S. agriculture.
How is Congress attempting to check EPA?
Congress has been proactive on several regulatory matters. One of the most significant efforts involves the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. On March 31, the House passed H.R. 872, a bill on which the NCC worked diligently to increase the number of co-sponsors. That measure would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Clean Water Act (CWA) such that a CWA permit would not be necessary for pesticides that are applied according to the FIFRA label. If reconciled in the House and Senate and signed into law by the President, the measure would overturn the 2009 Sixth Circuit decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA. That decision mandated, for the first time, that pesticides applied to, over or near water would need a (NPDES) under the CWA. On the Senate side, Pat Roberts (R-KS), ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced legislation to eliminate the NPDES rule for pesticide applications.
Regarding greenhouse gases (GHGs), multiple bills were introduced into both Congressional chambers. The House eventually passed H.R. 910 (Energy Tax Prevention Act), which would prohibit EPA from regulating emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that EPA has declared a threat to human health and the environment. Unfortunately, a similar bill in the Senate was 10 votes short of the 60 votes needed to avert a filibuster, and President Obama has threatened to veto any measure that hinders the administration’s efforts to regulate GHG emissions.
What are some other actions?
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has been called to testify at several House hearings. During a House Committee on Agriculture hearing, she was questioned on the impact of the agency’s actions and policies regarding agriculture, including spray drift, atrazine, NPDES permits and endangered species consultations. During a recent hearing, Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) voiced his concerns about the tendency for EPA to go into settlement agreements in lawsuits filed against the agency by environmental litigants.
The NCC, which has weighed in on several EPA actions recently, urged House Members to co-sign a letter authored by Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) and Kristi Noem (R-SD) asking EPA not to issue new regulations establishing more stringent standards for coarse particulate matter. The letter stated that, “Given the difficulty and expensive process of mitigating dust in most settings, the revised standards could have a devastating impact on rural communities and greatly reduce our nation’s food security.”
The NCC also recently submitted comments to EPA regarding the agency’s current regulations/policies evaluation. The comments expressed the concern that some of the agency’s programs will have severe economic impacts on the U.S. cotton industry, including increased costs of production, inability to generate offsets, increased processing costs for ginning and textile production and market disadvantages with international competitors.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.
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