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. 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.

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

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.