The Farm Bill and Pesticides

Spread the love
  • 8
    Shares
The Farm Bill and Pesticides
by Yolanda Park

 

The Farm Bill is a huge program that benefits millions of the most vulnerable communities.

However, the House, influenced by corporate interests, has inserted wording that is no longer compatible to supporting families and low-income, vulnerable communities, and so we are now looking at HR 2, which is not what we wanted to see in a Farm Bill.

HR 2 is a barrier to health, economic advancement, and clean air, water, and responsible land use. This make it an injustice and therefore a reason why it’s an environmental justice issue.

Here are five ways the House Farm Bill rolls back protections from pesticides:

1. Prevention of cities, counties, and communities from restricting pesticide use

Currently, there is an Act, called the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). It “is the Federal statute that governs the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the United States. With certain exceptions, a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, or intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant, or desiccant, or any nitrogen stabilizer.” [1]

Current law under FIFRA states in Section 24(a):

“A State may regulate the sale or use of any federally registered pesticide or device in the State, but only if and to the extent the regulation does not permit any sale or use prohibited by this Act.” [2]

HR 2 in section 9101(b)(3) states this section of FIFRA: “is amended by striking ‘‘A State may’’ and inserting ‘‘A State, but not a political subdivision of a State, may’’. [3]

According to Colin O’Neil, legislative director for the Environmental Working Group, this means that “Section 9101 would prevent cities, counties and communities from restricting certain uses of pesticides even if they deem restrictions necessary for protecting children’s health or the environment. For example, this provision would prevent a city or county from restricting chlorpyrifos – an insecticide so dangerous it was slated to be banned by the Environmental Protection Agency – from being sprayed near schools or hospitals.” [4]

HR 2 Section 9115 also eliminates paragraph 4 of the FIFRA, which states: “ If the Administrator finds, in accordance with standards set forth in regulations issued under section 25 of this Act, that a State is not capable of exercising adequate controls to assure that State registration under this section will be in accord with the purposes of this Act or has failed to exercise adequate controls, the Administrator may suspend the authority of the State to register pesticides until such time as the Administrator is satisfied that the State can and will exercise adequate controls. Prior to any such suspension, the Administrator shall advise the State of the Administrator’s intention to suspend and the reasons therefor and provide the State time to respond.” [5][6]

Meaning therefore, that the Administrator no longer has authority to find the State incapable of exercising pesticide controls responsibly or has exercised control at all. The Administrator no longer has authority to suspend the State’s authority to register pesticides if the State were deemed out of compliance.

——————-

[1] EPA website: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Federal Facilities https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/federal-insecticide-fungicide-and-rodenticide-act-fifra-and-federal-facilities

[2] FEDERAL INSECTICIDE, FUNGICIDE, AND RODENTICIDE ACT Section 3 [136a] https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FIFRA.pdf

[3] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9101(b)(3): https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

[4] 5 Ways House Farm Bill Would Roll Back Protections from Pesticides By Colin O’Neil, Legislative Director https://www.ewg.org/agmag/2018/04/5-ways-house-farm-bill-would-roll-back-protections-pesticides#.Wu04WYgvyPp

[5] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9115(2): https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

[6] FEDERAL INSECTICIDE, FUNGICIDE, AND RODENTICIDE ACT Section 24(4) AUTHORITY OF STATES https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FIFRA.pdf

 


 

2. EPA could approve pesticides without consultations with expert wildlife agencies

Currently, Section 3 [136a] titled Registration of pesticides has a subparagraph called (5) Approval of Registration, and then goes on to talk about how approval is given in registration of pesticides. [1]

HR 2 in Section 9111(a)(2) strikes out the words “Approval of”, meaning the subparagraph will now state processes for registration, but not necessarily a process for approval, because approval is no longer sought. [2]

Currently FIFRA’s protections for the environment from pesticide use currently in FIFRA under Section 3 [136a] titled Registration of pesticides, under subparagraph Approval of Registration (remember, to be changed to “Registration”), simply states that: “when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice it will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” [1]

HR 2 in Section 9111(a)(7) adds a new subparagraph titled PRINCIPLES TO BE APPLIED TO CERTAIN DETERMINATIONS which states: “…Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Administrator shall not be required to consult or otherwise communicate with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce..” [3]

Although some may argue that HR Section 9111 includes wording about the Administrator taking into account scientific data and to then request a report regarding pesticide impact on wildlife and endangered species, it does not include wording that the Administrator must make determinations of pesticide impact on wildlife and endangered species, and only if they choose to make such a determination do they then request a report. [4]

——————-

[1] FEDERAL INSECTICIDE, FUNGICIDE, AND RODENTICIDE ACT Section 3 [136a] https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FIFRA.pdf

[2] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9111(a)(2): https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

[3] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9111(a)(7): https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

[4] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9111(a)(6-7): https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

 


 

3. Pesticides allowed into navigable waterways without permit

HR 2 Section 9117 adds a 5th subparagraph to FIFRA Section 3(f) MISCELLANEOUS, which currently only has four. This new paragraph reads: “(5) USE OF AUTHORIZED PESTICIDES.—Except as provided in section 402(s) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Administrator or a State may not require a permit under such Act for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under this Act, or the residue of such a pesticide, resulting from the application of such pesticide.’’ [1][2]

Meaning no permits would need to be obtained when pollution from pesticides gets into waterways such as lakes, rivers, and oceans.

HR 2 Section 9118 also adds a paragraph to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which will then read: “Section 402(s) DISCHARGES OF PESTICIDES.— ‘(1) NO PERMIT REQUIREMENT.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), a permit shall not be required by the Administrator or a State under this Act for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or the residue of such a pesticide, resulting from the application of such pesticide.” [2]

Again, no permit would be required for discharge or pesticide pollution into navigable waters. Paragraph 2 that this section refers to, is where exceptions to this new paragraph are written. However, these exceptions apply only to circumstances such as stormwater discharge, or pesticides that violate FIFRA–which if HR 2 goes through, means there won’t be as many FIFRA violating pesticides since the State is given greater authority, and regulations are weakening. [3]

——————-

[1] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9117: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

[2] FEDERAL INSECTICIDE, FUNGICIDE, AND RODENTICIDE ACT Section 3(f) https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FIFRA.pdf

[3] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9118: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

 


 

4. Pesticides allowed to be approved without safety rules

HR 2 9119 would automatically and without further consideration enact into law HR 1029 of the 115th Congress, entitled “Pesticide Registration Improvement Enhancement Act of 2017” (PRIA). This Act passed the House on March 19th, 2017, and is now in the Senate. [1]

According to Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), PRIA would rollback rules that would “prevent children younger than 18 working in agriculture from handling highly dangerous pesticides like chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to brain damage in children, and help farmworkers get critical health and safety information about the pesticides they come into contact with…”. PRIA would also allow EPA to not “follow the law and respond to objections filed by worker and environmental advocates opposed to the agency’s [EPA’s] 2017 decision to overturn its own 2016 recommendation to ban chlorpyrifos.” [2]

Meaning that EPA decided to ban chlorpyrifos in 2016, but then overturned its decision in 2017.

——————-

[1] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9119: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf

[2] Udall, Booker, Harris, Blumenthal Offer Compromise to Pesticide Registration Reauthorization Stalemate https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/udall-booker-harris-blumenthal-offer-compromise-to-pesticide-registration-reauthorization-stalemate

 


 

5. Weakening Restrictions on Methyl Bromide

As stated by Colin O’Neil, legislative director for the Environmental Working Group, methyl bromide is a “highly toxic fumigant, that is being phased out because it depletes the ozone layer.” [1]

Currently, the Plant Protection Act (PPA) (7 U.S.C. 7719) reads very simply in subsection (a) that in general the Secretary, upon request of State, local, or tribal authorities, shall determine whether methyl bromide treatments or applications required by State, local, or tribal authorities to prevent the introduction, establishment, or spread of plant pests (including diseases) or noxious weeds should be authorized as an official control or official requirement.” And authorization of methyl bromide treatments aren’t to be made if there are alternatives. [2]

It also says in section (b) that through consultation with the State, local and tribal authorities, the Secretary will create a program to find existing alternatives to methyl bromide, and if there aren’t any alternatives, then the Secretary will create programs to develop them. [2]

The PPA also states that requirements authorized by the Secretary shall be published and maintained no later than 180 days. [2]

HR 2 Section 9121 greatly expands this section to:

–grant authority to State, local, and tribal authorities to use methyl bromide. The power has flipped, and now it is upon the Secretary to make objections to use, rather upon than State, local, or tribal governments

–allow methyl bromide to be used in what the State, local, and tribal governments deem to be an emergency

–give the Secretary only 5 days after notification to object

–obligate the Secretary to prove use of methyl bromide is wrongful

–allow production and/or importation of methyl bromide to go from illegal to legal, in order to ENSUR[E] ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF METHYL BROMIDE  [3]

——————-

[1] 5 Ways House Farm Bill Would Roll Back Protections from Pesticides By Colin O’Neil, Legislative Director https://www.ewg.org/agmag/2018/04/5-ways-house-farm-bill-would-roll-back-protections-pesticides#.Wu04WYgvyPp

[2] 7 USC 7719: Methyl bromide From Title 7-AGRICULTURE CHAPTER 104-PLANT PROTECTION SUBCHAPTER I-PLANT PROTECTION

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:7%20section:7719%20edition:prelim)#sourcecredit

[3] Farm Bill HR 2 Section 9121: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf