Farmers wants feds to challenge pesticide decision
YAKIMA, Wash. — An appeals court decision requiring a pollution discharge permit for aerial spraying in national forests has the potential to devastate timber and agriculture pest-control programs, a coalition of farm groups and others warns in a letter to the U.S. attorney general.
One of the worries is that it would take a lot of time and money to get the permits, preventing growers from responding quickly to a pest outbreak, Pat Boss, director of the Washington Potato Commission, said Monday.
“In a crisis situation, I don’t think they could wait several months,” he said in a telephone interview. “Farmers need to be able to make timely decisions about applying chemicals.”
Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in a case brought by environmental groups, said that the U.S. Forest Service needed to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit under the federal Clean Water Act if it was going to proceed with an aerial spraying program to control tussock moths in national forests in Washington and Oregon.
In a Dec. 5 letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, several farm groups, along with the Association of Washington Aerial Applicators and the Clark County Mosquito Control District, said:
“NPDES permits can be several years in the development stage and cost tens of thousands of dollars. If pest control projects are forced to endure this time lag and associated costs, pest damage could be devastating to timber, agriculture, public health programs and habitat.”
The group asks the federal government to seek judicial review or appeal the Nov. 4 court ruling. The deadline for appeal is later this month.
No one in Ashcroft’s office in Washington, D.C., was immediately available for comment Monday.
Boss said there is concern that the ruling could ultimately mean that NPDES permits would be required for all aerial spraying, and perhaps other nozzle-spraying as well.
The NPDES program is designed to control water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already requires that pesticides meet extensive environmental, health and safety regulations for registration under the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
Jim Jesernig, a former state agriculture commissioner and now a consultant working with the potato commission, said the ruling potentially could have far-reaching effects.
Farmers could find so many restrictions that some chemical applications would become simply unworkable. Manufacturers also might find additional permitting requirements too much of a hassle to even be willing to register their pesticides for the so-called minor crops, such as apples, cherries and raspberries, he said.
About 25 percent of all farm chemicals are applied by aerial spraying, according to USDA statistics.
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