(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2010) The Nebraska Farm Bureau and its champion, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb), have recently expressed concern over a series of actions and proposals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning agriculture. Arguing that EPA is “overreaching” and is “out of control” by introducing new regulations that create “more paperwork” for its farmers, Sen. Nelson and advocates for chemical-intensive agriculture dismiss the EPA’s mandate to protect public and environmental health.
Sen. Nelson recently brought up his concerns at a Senate hearing with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking the state’s congressional delegation to work with their colleagues to halt EPA’s “non-stop regulatory assault on the state’s farmers and ranchers and their counterparts nationwide.” In addressing Administrator Jackson, Sen. Nelson said he agreed with a number of Nebraska producers who have told him that agriculture’s perspective is not being considered in EPA’s decision making, saying that, “EPA is overreaching with proposed regulations for carbon emissions, atrazine, dust standards, applying clean water rules on pesticide use and greenhouse gas reporting for livestock operations.”
“Many in the agricultural community are rightly concerned about EPA’s actions because the agency’s rules typically are implemented in a top-down fashion with too little consideration for their impact,” Sen. Nelson said. “These rules often are costly and time-consuming for Nebraska farmers and ranchers. In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture works more cooperatively when it implements new rules.”
In letters sent last week to Nebraska’s U.S. senators and representatives, Farm Bureau Board of Directors cited several of what they view as examples of the so-called regulatory assault on agriculture since 2009. Including:
– EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” gives it authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
– Proposed revisions to coarse particulate matter (dust) standards, which may trigger restrictions on everything from gravel roads to farm field activities.
– A re-evaluation of atrazine.
– Action to expand federal authority over individual states’ management of surface water quality.
– Expansion of Clean Water Act permit requirements that leave open the option of regulating common pesticide applications.
New actions at EPA have led to the current re-evaluation of atrazine. Despite industry insistence that the chemical is “safe,” atrazine contaminates surface and drinking waters, is a known endocrine disruptor and is linked to birth defects and cancer. It has also been banned in every other developed country. At the end of the review process, the agency will decide whether to revise its current risk assessment of the pesticide and whether new restrictions are necessary to better protect public health. The decision to review atrazine follows recent scrutiny and findings that the current EPA regulation of atrazine in water is inadequate.
EPA, under court order, proposed new permit requirements for the discharge of pesticides into US waterways in keeping with the Clean Water Act, which the agency has a duty to uphold. However in response to this action, industry groups and members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, drafted a bill, S. 3735 aimed at stripping the Clean Water Act of its directive to protect U.S. waters from pesticide contamination. A letter, authored by Beyond Pesticides and supported by dozens and environmental and public health groups from across the country, urges Congress to support EPA in fulfilling its task, rather than undermining the laws that protect public health and the environment.
Powerful industry groups have stepped up efforts to lobby Congress to admonish and undermine EPA’s recent efforts to exert its authority and stewardship over environmental laws that serve to protect human health and the environment. According to Beyond Pesticides’ newly released Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, many pesticides currently regulated by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are linked to numerous chronic health effects including cancer and reproductive/developmental disorders. While environmental and public health advocates argue that many EPA actions do not go far enough to protect vulnerable populations and wildlife species, many recent decisions are aimed to increase transparency in the regulatory process. Claiming “undue burden” industry groups are determined to derail EPA’s progress.