NCC Chairman Eddie Smith, a Floydada, TX, cotton producer, stated, "The Supreme Court's failure to review the NCC v. EPA case creates an uncertain regulatory future for the application of agricultural crop inputs. Farmers face potential new regulations that could force many to obtain even more permits before they apply agricultural inputs. A burdensome, new permit requirement will increase costs both to farmers and many states that will carry much of this regulatory load."
The NCC had participated in a legal action seeking to uphold agriculture's longstanding exemption to certain permitting requirements in the Clean Water Act (CWA). An earlier decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ignored the agricultural exemption, opening the door to a broad new set of permitting requirements under the CWA. Because of the broad interpretation of navigable waters in the CWA, it is generally believed that, for the first time, every terrestrial pesticide application could be required to have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the CWA.
"This could subject U.S. farmers to public hearings, additional costs, reporting, monitoring and citizen suits,” Smith emphasized, “all of which previously had been determined by EPA to be unnecessary to protect the environment and the public health. These additional burdens will be placed on farmers with no added water quality benefits that current labeling requirements do not already provide.”
The focus now will shift to the Environmental Protection Agency which has about 18 months to draft regulations informing farmers how EPA plans to implement these new requirements.
“The NCC will work closely with EPA and other agricultural groups to ensure the NPDES permitting program does not usher in a new era of permitting requirements for the application of crop inputs that will greatly raise costs to farmers,” Smith said.