On Monday, December 10th, House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Members Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) filed the conference report to accompany H.R. 2, the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” also known as the Farm Bill. The long-awaited measure was passed by the Senate on December 11th by a vote of 87 to 13 and was then sent to the House where it was adopted on December 12th by a vote of 369 to 47. The President is expected to sign the measure into law this week.
Two add on bills strongly supported by CPDA and its allied industry partners unfortunately were not included in the final Farm Bill conference report – namely, language that would establish a long-term reauthorization of PRIA and provisions that would eliminate the duplicative National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirement for FIFRA registered pesticides. The conference report does, however, include several pesticide related provisions of interest as briefly described below.
Among these is a provision that directs the USDA Secretary, acting through the Director of the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, to conduct a multiple crop and pesticide use survey of farmers to collect data for risk assessment modeling and mitigation for an active ingredient.
The conference report also calls for the establishment of a FIFRA Interagency Working Group to provide recommendations and develop a strategy for improving the pesticide consultation process under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This working group will consist of representatives from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The working group will be required to periodically report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on its progress in developing and implementing its recommendations for improving the ESA Section 7 consultation process.
In its other provisions, the conference report includes language on plant biostimulants requiring the USDA Secretary, in consultation with the Administrator of the EPA, States, and relevant stakeholders, to provide a report to Congress that identifies “any potential regulatory, non-regulatory, and legislative recommendations, including the appropriateness of any definitions for plant biostimulants.” The conference report defines “plant biostimulant” as a substance or micro-organism that, when applied to seeds, plants, or the rhizosphere, stimulates natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, or crop quality and yield. The conference report language allows the Secretary to modify the description of plant biostimulant, as appropriate. The conference report managers cite the importance of plant biostimulants as “an emerging technology for production agriculture” and state that the report will “facilitate the regulatory framework for plant biostimulant products and ensure the efficient and appropriate review, approval, uniform national labeling, and availability of these products to agricultural producers.” The Farm Bill conference report may be accessed by clicking here.