Sens. Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, are as different as night and day on political perspectives.
As a loyal Democrat, McCaskill is a fan of President Obama and plans to support his controversial Iran nuclear deal. She’s also backing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House.
Crapo, as an equally loyal Republican, has no use for most of Obama’s policies and is adamantly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal. He hasn’t announced his support for a presidential candidate, but it’s a good bet that he feels any of the 17 GOP candidates would be better than Hillary Clinton.
But with Idaho and Missouri being agricultural states, Crapo and McCaskill are willing to put aside partisan differences on issues of common interest. They are leading a bipartisan effort to eliminate duplicate Environmental Protection Agency regulations on pesticide applications that they say are imposing an unnecessary burden on farmers and water users. Pesticide applications already are regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which requires the substances to be evaluated with more than 100 tests and registered with the EPA.
Apparently 100 tests are not enough by Washington standards. A 2009 court decision forced the EPA to require Clean Water Act permits for certain applications of pesticides in or near water. This regulatory mandate went into effect four years ago, and the two senators are fighting to eliminate that requirement.
“This redundant regulation is an extra burden for farmers and unnecessary for the protection of our environment,” McCaskill said in a news release. “We do need to protect human health and the environment, but when we can achieve that goal with one permitting program, it makes no sense to require farmers to go through another whole permitting regime to achieve the same goal.”
Crapo agrees. “This issue is a prime example of an unnecessary, duplicative federal regulation impacting a variety of stakeholders in Idaho and across the nation. Our rural communities are already under a substantial amount of financial strain and regulator pressure and are looking to Congress for much-needed relief.”
The title of the Crapo-McCaskill bill, the “Sensible Environmental Protection Act,” seems a little corny (pun intended). It sounds like something from a fringe political group that is neither sensible nor protects the environment. But Joe Anderson, a Potlatch farmer, hardly cares about the bill’s name. He wants results.
“We have two pieces of law dealing with pesticide regulations. Both are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, but by different divisions,” said Anderson, who has farmed on the outskirts of the Palouse for almost 50 years. “From experience, I have no confidence that those two divisions of the EPA even talk to each other.”
As Anderson explains, farmers are left to decide which set of regulations to follow, leading to a lot of confusion.
“I think Keystone Cops is the right description,” he said. “If there were consultation and cooperation, then OK, maybe that can be worked out. But that rarely happens in government.”
Anderson says he’s thankful that Crapo is on his side with this – and other issues – related to agriculture. “Without him, and others like him, I don’t know where we would be.”
Crapo says eliminating duplicative regulations is one of the highest priorities for Idaho farmers and water users, “and it’s a big deal to agriculture and water users all over the country,” he said.
Crapo says he and McCaskill are not trying to sidestep environmental regulations. “We already have a rigorous and comprehensive structure for regulating the application of pesticides, and it is working. No one is arguing that it’s not working.”
Nine other Republicans, including Idaho’s Jim Risch, and four other Democrats besides McCaskill are listed as original co-sponsors, which is an impressive show of bipartisan support. The House has approved the bill, and the senators were successful in gaining passage in committee, but final passage in the Senate is not a sure thing.
“Some people will not change environmental laws, no matter what,” he said.
If Crapo and McCaskill can get this through the Senate, and McCaskill can talk the president into signing the bill, it will show that Congress at least can get something done – and that political victories don’t have to come in large packages.