Bipartisanship is rare these days in Washington. So it is refreshing and encouraging when it occurs. It is even more encouraging when the area of bipartisan agreement is environmental policy. One federal policy that stands as a model of cooperation is the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA), which established how the Environmental Protection Agency engages with industry in reviewing various substances that will be used by farmers, state highway maintenance departments, landscaping companies, homeowners and many others to control weeds, pests and fungi that threaten crops, infrastructure, parks, lawns and the places we live.
PRIA first became law in 2003 and created a system through which companies that make covered products pay fees to the government to cover a portion of the EPA’s costs for reviewing the voluminous scientific data necessary to either approve a request to deem a product safe for use, to reject it or to set limits on its use to protect human and environmental health. I should note that PRIA also covers products such as flea and tick treatments for your pets.
When enacted, PRIA received broad bipartisan Congressional support, and it did so again when updated in 2007 and 2012, in each case without a single objection in either the House or Senate, by Democrat or Republican. Both parties understood not only the importance of the government regulating these products to ensure they are used safely, but also that the process for doing so should be an efficient one that encourages industry to invest in innovative new solutions to augment or even replace older chemistries. In the case of agriculture, farmers are clamoring for new products that can help them improve yields, predictability and quality. The laws and regulations that have been put on the books to regulate pesticides in the U.S. are designed to encourage the same type of technological progression we see in computing power or automobile safety, for example. They have worked and served as a model for the rest of the world.
The time has come again for Congress to reauthorize PRIA and support the progression of technologies and ideas that help us from farm to front porch. In the House of Representatives, the bill to modernize the law again passed without objection. The Senate Committee on Agriculture approved it with strong bipartisan support, needing only a “voice vote” rather than a formal recorded vote. However, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has put a hold on the reauthorization bill, preventing it from being considered by the full Senate.
Every day the world’s population increases, with expectations of it reaching 10 billion by 2060 from today’s 7.5 billion. Every day crops are destroyed by pests or bacteria or fungi and never reach the tables of families in need. Each year we see outbreaks of new and old diseases that are spread by insects. Though we don’t often think about it, our modern society depends on the innovations for which PRIA was created to bring safe and effective products to market. I encourage Sen. Udall to support the reauthorization of PRIA.