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Chemical Industry Renegotiates Pesticide Registration Fees
Action: Support Industry Fees for Pesticide Hazard Reviews
(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2003)
Congress is considering an amendment to appropriations legislation that will allow EPA to collect registration and tolerance fees from pesticide manufacturers. The amendment incorporates the language of S. 1664, The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2003. For six years, Congress, at the urging of the chemical industry, has passed a "rider" to appropriations bills which has prevented EPA from carrying out its statutory authority to charge the industry for the full cost of the government's hazard review programs. The pesticide registration, reregistration and tolerance (acceptable residues) review programs were intended by Congress to be self-supporting in two federal pesticide law revisions in 1988 and 1996, shifting costs originally borne by taxpayers to the chemical industry. S. 1664 represents a renegotiation of industry fees previously agreed to in the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, in an effort to enable EPA to meet its pesticide review deadlines.

What Is in It for the Chemical Industry?
Why would the chemical industry agree to pay fees that it has successfully blocked, even though it helped structure and signed off on the fee schedule in two major pieces of legislation it negotiated? Maybe it is because the pesticide industry will, under S. 1664, receive a lower total bill from EPA to review and register its chemicals than it agreed to pay when it supported the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in 1996 and amendments to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in 1988. In fact, had Presidents Clinton and Bush budget proposals not been blocked from fiscal years 2000 through 2003, the industry would have paid $294 million in fees, according to an industry trade group memo. The industry, under the new renegotiated fees agreement in the legislation, will pay a little more than $200 million over the next five years.

What Is in It for the Public Interest?
Environmental, labor, consumer groups and Congressional allies, unable to prevent the blocking of fees, see this deal as giving EPA much-needed funds to carry out its pesticide reviews. It also ensures that the fee-generated funds specifically support EPA's pesticide program, and do not end up in the U.S. Treasury where they can be used to pay down the skyrocketing national deficit.

Can the Chemical Industry Be Trusted to Stick to the Agreement This Time?
The legislation raises for some environmentalists the larger question of whether the chemical industry can be trusted to live by its agreements with Congress, regulators and public interest groups. According to Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, "For the past six years, the pesticide industry has sabotaged a major element of the FQPA agreement to which it was a party."

Here is what the White House office of the press secretary said when the rider was introduced in 2000:

[A] rider on the House VA/HUD bill would cripple efforts to protect the public from dangerous pesticides by barring the Environmental Protection Agency from collecting fees from pesticide makers to support mandatory safety reviews. The proposed EPA rule to assess the fees is required under the Food Quality Protection Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress, which calls for systematic reviews of the potential health risks posed by thousands of commonly used pesticides.

Current Situation in Congress
The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed an appropriations bill that would extend the rider, or ban on collecting these fees, for another year (FY 2004). The Senate, however, is still considering its appropriations bill, which it will take up in the near future. Given broad agreement that fees are needed to move EPA's pesticide review program, advocates are hoping to use the appropriations vote in the Senate to move legislation that removes the rider and replaces it with a new fee structure. Senator Christopher (Kit) Bond (R-MO), chair of the Senate VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over pesticides, has expressed concern that the adoption of a fees bill would amount to legislating on an appropriations bill. However, because of the broad support for the bill, supporters hope the Senate will use the appropriations vehicle, accept the bill language under a unanimous consent rule, without debate and amendments, and then adopt it in a House-Senate conference. The word on Capitol Hill is that Senator Bond needs some convincing.

Why the Bill is Better Than the Current Situation
The legislation, S. 1664 and H. R. 3188, The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2003, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), and in the House by Reps. Lucas (R-OK), Goodlatte (R-VA) and Stenholm (D-TX), is supported by a coalition of industry, environmental, consumer and labor groups. Even though the industry will pay considerably less (at least one-third less) than it would have paid under budget proposals issued by both a Democrat and Republican President, EPA's pesticide program will actually get more than it might have under those proposals. Under Bush's FY 2004 proposal, for example, out of $62.5 million that the industry would have paid, $26 million would have gone to the U.S. Treasury and $36.5 million would have gone to EPA.

Under the fees bill, it is calculated that $44.6 will be paid to EPA. The bill also establishes a fund, between $750,000 and $1 million, specifically to address worker protection, and an amount not to exceed $500,000 to evaluate new inert, or secret non-disclosed, ingredients in pesticide products.

Open Questions
Future costs for pesticide reregistration could rise faster than the schedule in the legislation as EPA develops, for example, an estrogenic screening program to evaluate endocrine disrupting effects of pesticides, as required by FQPA. In the past, EPA has said that the full costs of review could not be determined until its policies and guidelines for endocrine disrupting pesticides are adopted. Discussions have begun to add language that requires EPA to study future reregistration needs and report back to Congress so that it can adjust future fees to cover any new required reviews.

In addition, the bill's language includes a fee waiver or reduction for so-called "minor use" pesticides that generate lower profit margins for chemical manufacturers and is deemed to be "in the public interest," or for small businesses whose global sales do not exceed $10 million at the time of application. Minor use pesticides are those commonly used on fruits, vegetable and specialty crops, for which there are lower volume industry sales but often higher public exposure, as distinguished from major crops such as wheat, corn, oats, etc. Finally, the bill establishes priority review for pesticides that EPA has labeled "reduced risk."

ACTION:
Let your Senators know that you support the fees bill, S. 1664, The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2003, being attached as an amendment to the Appropriations Bill to substitute for and put an end to the Congressional ban (rider) on charging fees to the chemical industry for EPA's hazard review of pesticides. Let your Senators know that this is an important step in funding EPA reviews that were mandated by Congress under the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996. Ask your Senators to contact Mr. Bond, chairman of the VA-HD Appropriations Subcommittee and ask him to allow the amendment to be attached to the FY 2004 Senate Appropriations Bill.

Call your U.S. Senator in Washington, DC at 202-224-3121 and followup with an email, letter or fax.

Please let us know who you called and who you spoke with so that we can follow-up. For more information, contact Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, 202-543-5450 or jfeldman@beyondpesticides.org.