The 115th Congress of the United States has convened and one of the most important issues that CPDA and its members are working on is the reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA). PRIA was first enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004 to establish firm deadlines by which EPA must make decisions on pesticide registration actions submitted to the Agency. As originally enacted, the Act required Congress to reauthorize the program through legislation every 5 years with the current program set to expire on September 30, 2017.
A measure, titled the “Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017” (H.R. 1029), was introduced in the House on February 14, 2017 by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) and was favorably reported out of the House Agriculture Committee by voice vote on February 16th. Among its provisions, the bill would authorize the collection of $31 million in maintenance fees for each of fiscal years 2017 through 2023 (current maintenance fees are set at $27.8 million/year). In addition, the measure provides for an increase in the maintenance fee cap for large and small businesses and it continues the current prohibition on the imposition of tolerance fees as well as any other registration fee not specifically authorized by PRIA through fiscal year 2023. In its other provisions, the measure provides for a set-aside of between 1/9 and 1/8 of maintenance fees collected for the review of inert ingredient submissions and me-too pesticide applications. The bill also adjusts registration service fees and decision review times for product submissions subject to PRIA and provides for two 5% increases in registration service fees during the effective period of the statute. A copy of the bill may be accessed by clicking here and a section-by-section summary is available here.
While CPDA is generally supportive of the provisions in H.R. 1029, the Council does have some concerns with regard to how the bill, as presently written, would impact appropriations. Specifically, current PRIA requires that in order to release collected funds, Congress must appropriate corresponding funds to support the program. Funds are then released on a dollar-for-dollar accounting basis. Fees that do not have a matching appropriation cannot be spent and are held by the Agency. As a result of dwindling appropriations, EPA has amassed a significant amount of funds totaling approximately $20 million that cannot be expended on the registration activities for which they were intended. Some have suggested that “de-linking” appropriations and fees in the Act will solve this problem. CPDA believes that de-linkage is an inappropriate way to release these frozen funds because:
- The link between fee collection and appropriations is the mechanism that guarantees that Congress will continue to fund PRIA;
- De-linkage does not solve the ongoing problem of the mismatch between appropriations and fee collections; and
- The problem of the mismatch between appropriations and fee collections can be easily solved by passing a one-time waiver to release currently frozen funds.
CPDA is working with lawmakers to support a waiver process that would allow these funds to be released while maintaining the Congressional incentive to appropriate the necessary funding to support PRIA. The original intent of PRIA was to create an EPA funding mechanism that would completely support the pesticide registration process through funds collected from industry (maintenance and registration fees) as a supplement to the appropriations enacted by Congress. However, due to the failure of Congress to enact the base level of appropriations specified in current PRIA, EPA’s registration program has not seen full funding for the past several years. Over the coming weeks and months, CPDA staff will be visiting with members of Congress to address this issue.
With regard to the timing of how PRIA might move through Congress, it is expected that the measure will be the subject of at least one hearing, if not several, all of which will likely wrap up by late spring before the bill is sent to the House floor for a vote. Once approved by the House, the measure will be sent to the Senate for consideration and passage. A joint House-Senate committee must then reconcile any differences in the legislation as passed by both chambers. The bill will then be sent back to the House and Senate floors for a vote before going to the President to be signed into law. The process of moving a bill through Congress can be slow or fast depending on the issues involved. PRIA is expected to move in a “normal manner” with a target for completion either right before or soon after the August recess.
The reauthorization of PRIA will be one of the key advocacy issues to be discussed during the Congressional office visits we are planning as part of the CPDA Legislative Policy Conference scheduled for March 8, 2017. We encourage all member company representatives to attend. Additional information on how to register for the Conference is available by clicking here.