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Senate Ag begins pesticide registration review

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Regulatory certainty is top of mind for producers in the countryside. On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee began its examination of pesticide registrations as the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

PRIA, while technical in nature, is critically important with assisting both the Environmental Protection Agency in carrying out administrative functions and the industry, which relies on timely pesticide registration decisions to get products on the market and in the hands of farmers. PRIA is the industry’s fee-for-service program that, in the words of Jay Vroom, president and chief executive officer of CropLife America, “provides the government structure and regulatory schemes so companies can innovate and products can be evaluated at EPA with the support and guidance of (the U.S. Department of Agriculture).”

Vroom said it took eight years to get PRIA fully in place, and at that time, the wait for new active ingredient approvals averaged four to six years. Within a couple of years of PRIA being in effect, due to the clarity it calls for on timeline priorities, the wait dropped to two years, although it has crept back up closer to three years.

Vroom noted that new product registrations would often linger, with no real process or time frame for completion. “This ambiguous process would often lead to frustration and, more importantly, would jeopardized innovation, as there was diminished incentive to invest in the research and development of new chemistries for the marketplace. The enactment of PRIA changed that experience — and not just for product registrants but for all stakeholders. The success of PRIA has led to process improvements in the Office of Pesticide Programs at EPA, established a dedicated funding stream for the agency, created specific block grants for training and education programs and created business certainty that keeps the wheels of innovation turning, which, in turn, results in the creation of jobs in the agriculture sector.”

Through the administration of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act  (FIFRA), EPA undertakes extensive review of more than 125 different health, safety and efficacy studies, and ultimately, EPA makes a decision to register a pesticide for distribution, sale and use if it determines that using the pesticide according to specifications “will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” The pesticide must also be registered in any state where it is to be used. In most cases, it is the responsibility of the state department of agriculture to review and register these products for use in each state.

Gary Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee and outlined the ways state and federal regulators can work together to encourage cooperation between the two.

“We should exist to help people get into business. We want the economy to thrive and people to stay employed. As a regulator, my job is to help people stay in business,” he said, adding that there is also a strong need to “educate before you regulate.”

Cooperative federalism is a priority for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), Black emphasized. NASDA is calling for institutionalizing the unique role and authorities of states as co-regulators – not simply stakeholders.

“Communication, cooperation and coordination shouldn’t be a goal; they should be a given. We feel there are opportunities to strengthen this regulatory partnership between EPA and the state departments of agriculture, and we would welcome the opportunity to explore these possibilities with the committee going forward,” Black said in his testimony.

The House recently passed H.R. 1029, a reauthorization bill introduced by Rep. Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), by unanimous voice vote. Vroom encouraged the Senate Agriculture Committee to follow suit as PRIA is an “easy button” for the committee to push to approve thanks to its bipartisan committee support as well as widespread industry and stakeholder support.

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