Regulatory Developments, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Pesticide Registration Bill Signed into Law

On March 8, 2019, President Donald Trump signed legislation to extend the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) through September 2023. An amendment to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the original PRIA, or PRIA 1, became law in 2004.

Pesticide safety

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The original intent of the amendment was to effect a more predictable and effective evaluation process for pesticide registration decisions by coupling the collection of fees with specific decision review periods. Companies seeking to have their pesticide and herbicide products registered for use in the United States pay a registration fee and a yearly maintenance fee. The EPA uses this money, along with congressional appropriations, to conduct registration and reregistration reviews and issue the approvals needed to bring the products to the market. The EPA also uses a portion of its PRIA proceeds and funding to implement protections of agricultural workers exposed to pesticides. PRIA’s prior authorization expired at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2018.

Bipartisan Support

PRIA is one of those rare federal environmental laws that has no opposition in Congress; before the president’s signature, the current reauthorization bill—PRIA 4—passed unanimously in both the Senate and the House. The original PRIA, in fact, was the product of work by a coalition of pesticide stakeholders, including seven different trade groups within the pesticide industry and groups advocating for the environment and farmworker safety. All these groups have voiced support for PRIA 4.

In a December 2018 letter, 117 agricultural associations told federal lawmakers that reauthorization of PRIA is essential to ensure “that growers and users of pesticides have timely access to products that help them produce the food, fuel, and fiber the world depends on”.

“PRIA 4 provides important new provisions, increasing and clarifying categories of pesticide actions covered, increasing fees for both registration and registration review which reduce burdens on the taxpayer, and protects funds for grant programs, while increasing transparency and stakeholder engagement by ensuring grant programs meet measurable goals,” the letter continued.

Environmental and worker protection groups such as Earthjustice interpret PRIA 4’s value somewhat differently.

“[PRIA 4] provides the EPA with more resources to evaluate pesticide registrations and ensures the preservation of two rules that are vital to the protection of workers and consumers who are exposed to pesticides in agricultural, residential, and commercial settings: the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule,” states Earthjustice.

Specific Provisions

Among its provisions, PRIA 4:

  • Increases the maximum amount the EPA may collect in total maintenance fees from $27.8 million per fiscal year to $31 million for each of FYs 2017 to 2023.
  • Extends through FY 2025 the EPA’s authority to collect pesticide registration service fees, with a 2-year phaseout period in FY 2024 and FY 2025. The EPA must increase by 5 percent the fees for covered applications of pesticides received in FY 2020 and FY 2021. After that, the Agency must increase the application fee by an additional 5 percent.
  • Extends until the end of FY 2025 a prohibition on levying pesticide registration fees not otherwise authorized as maintenance or registration service fees.
  • Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to extend until the end of FY 2023 a prohibition on levying fees for applications involving pesticide chemical residues (tolerance fees).
  • Extends set-asides of funds for worker protection, partnership grants, and pesticide safety education until FY 2023. Funds for worker protection must emphasize field workers.
  • Requires that the EPA evaluate the application review process, including identifying opportunities for streamlining the review of a new active ingredient in a pesticide or a new use of a pesticide.
  • Increases the number of covered fee categories from 189 to 212 and revises the time frames in which the EPA is required to complete review of a requested action.

PRIA 4 is available here.