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April 6, 2011

TRANSCRIPT: Johanns: EPA Must Eliminate Burdensome Permit Requirement for Pesticide Applications

Mr. JOHANNS: Mr. President, I would like to talk about an EPA that I believe is out of step with American agriculture. EPA continues to pursue regulations that would require farmers to file for an additional permit if they want to apply pesticides. Well, just last month, administrator Jackson mentioned -- and I'm quoting -- "the critical work that farmers are doing to protect our soil, our air and our water resources." yet the EPA continues I believe to handcuff our farmers and our ranchers with very stringent, new regulations but still expects them to do all they can to feed a hungry world.

Time and time again, farmers have consistently proven to be excellent stewards of the environment. They make their living from the land and they are very mindful of maintaining and protecting and improving it. I speak from experience. I grew up on a farm. Unfortunately, we've watched organizations use the courts to twist laws against American agricultural production. A democratic congressman from California recently noted that EPA -- and again I'm quoting -- "often pursues a course of agency activism." He points out that the EPA is using the settlement of lawsuits to give them jurisdiction over issues that may not be allowed under existing law.

More and more, we are seeing important policy decisions that impact agriculture arise not from the legislative process, where it should arise from, but from the litigation process, where a lawsuit settlement results in policy decisions being made. In January 2009, a court overturned the normal practice of allowing farmers to apply pesticides as long as they complied with labeling requirements under the Effect insecticide, Fungecide and Rodencide Act, which is known as EIFRA. The court ruled that EPA doubly regulate pesticides applications under EIFRA in the clean waterage.  At least 25 Senate and House members, including myself, wrote an amicus brief regarding the decision. But instead the Obama Administration chose to waive the white flag, ignoring science and caving to the activists. They urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case and to let the ruling stand.

For years, EPA managed pesticide permitting within established environmental and safety requirements, yet the administration refused to defend what was a very established, a very long-standing approach. The EPA asked for a two-year delay to write the permit and set up a compliance regiment. They moved forward with one onerous permitting requirement for our producers that will provide really no environmental gain. This would subject the pesticide applicators to new requirements and to requirements that duplicate, a distinct shift in how the EPA regulates pesticides. It created a whole new world. This additional permitting is now inefficient, it's unnecessary, and I would argue it's inappropriate for agriculture.

EPA's permitting requirements also present a challenge to local public health officials who work to control mosquitoes and prevent the spread of disease. The American mosquito control association estimates that complying with the additional regulation could cost each pesticide user at least $200,000 and potentially $600,000 in California alone. And the dual permit requirement may reduce the availability of pesticides proven to control mosquito populations. Thus, the ability of public health officials to control mosquitoes and the spread of disease will be hindered. Well, we all know that bugs and weeds won't wait on another additional permit from EPA, and I sure don't think farmers and public officials should have to go through this additional process.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act. It's H.R. 872. And it passed with overwhelming support, and I'm very pleased to see it passed by a bipartisan vote of 292-130. And democrat congressman Collin Peterson, who I worked with when I was Secretary of Agriculture, and have a lot of respect for said this, and I'm quoting, "it was never the intent of Congress to burden producers with personal permit requirements that would have little to no environmental requirement." I could not agree more that the former chair of the House Ag Committee. He's not alone, 57 of his colleagues, democrats, supported this bipartisan legislation to set the record straight and send a clear message to the EPA now, here in the Senate, I'm a cosponsor of a similar bill that Senator Roberts introduced this week and I'm pleased to stand here today and support his bill.

Both these bills are designed to eliminate this burdensome, costly and redundant permit requirement for pesticide permit applications. I comment his efforts here. He is really trying to do something to solve this problem while protecting farmers and ranchers from additional regulation, but also very mindful of our environment. I urge the Majority Leader to act quickly on the legislation to address EPA's redundant and costly double-permit requirement. We can address this in the Senate. If we don't find a solution, our producers will continue being told how to operate in a very, very difficult environment. Our producers already deal with the uncertainty of Mother Nature. We should not infuse even more uncertainty into their lives in the form of these regulations that duplicate with no discernible benefit. President Obama recently promised to eliminate programs that duplicate each other. In fact, he issued an executive order calling for a government-wide review to identify programs that either duplicated, or as he said at the time, were just plain dumb.

Mr. President, I submit to you that this pesticide double regulation is really unnecessary and as dumb as it gets. We should support our farmers and ranchers as they produce safe, affordable food. And they are working to protect the land. American agriculture can continue to feed the world and our farmers will continue to care for the land unless we setup unnecessary roadblocks. This redundant pesticide permitting requirement is just another example of overreach. The U.S. Senate, I hope, will follow the example of the house, who voted resoundingly in a very bipartisan way to correct in situation. We cannot afford delay with the compliance date just around the corner. It's a deadline we simply cannot ignore.

Mr. President, thank you, I yield the floor.

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