The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee passed H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, with a strong bi-partisan voice vote. Following that vote, the NCC issued a release urging swift Senate passage of the bill. The NCC also commended the Committee for recognizing this bill’s importance and stated it believes the bill eliminates redundant regulation, which provides little or no additional environmental benefits over current law.

Following the vote, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas, R-Okla., issued a statement also commending the Senate panel's action. He urged Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., to quickly send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote because “the cost of inaction is far-reaching and significant, and would be a crushing blow to an already struggling economy.”

The NCC release noted the overwhelming House-passed, bipartisan vote (292-130) of H.R. 872 on March 31.

“That vote margin conveyed the House’s recognition of this legislation’s extreme importance,” NCC Chairman Charles Parker said. “The legislation eliminates a costly and duplicative permitting requirement for the application of pesticides.”

H.R. 872 would eliminate the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permit for agricultural applications of pesticides on or around navigable waters. The bill reverses a 2009 decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council v. EPA. This court decision vacated a ’06 EPA rule and long-standing interpretation that the application of a pesticide for its intended purpose and in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act does not also require a separate permit under the Clean Water Act. EPA released its draft final general permit for pesticide applications in April and the court-ordered deadline for EPA to promulgate the new permitting process for pesticides was moved to Oct. 31, 2011.

“That permitting process is a direct result of a misguided decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the NCC vs. EPA case and would make farmers subject to an unnecessary layer of duplicative regulation,” Parker said. “The National Cotton Council disagreed with that decision from the beginning and worked vigorously to have it reviewed and overturned.”

The NCC has stated that without a legislative fix, the court order that would be implemented on Oct. 31 would result in a requirement that – “would impose an economic burden to agricultural producers, foresters, public health agencies, the federal government, state agencies and every day citizens.”

Following EPA’s June 2010 announcement of the public availability of the draft NPDES permit, NCC’s Environmental Task Force Chairman Mike Tate, an Alabama cotton producer, responded in a statement saying, “All agricultural operations can be negatively affected by these new NPDES permit requirements. It is critical that the NCC does what it can to ensure this duplicative process does not add significant costs to farmers who are already complying with law by applying crop inputs according to their federally approved labels."