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By Sheryl Lindros Dolan and James V. Aidala

The Appropriations Bill that is expected to be signed into law on February 15, 2019, provides funding for the rest of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and averts another federal government shutdown.  It does not, however, include either an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) or Reauthorization, widely referred to as PRIA 4.  This omission was a surprise to industry and to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  On February 13, 2019, the Senate introduced a stand-alone PRIA 4 bill (S. 483).  Acting swiftly, the Senate passed the bill on February 14, 2019, by unanimous consent.  S. 483 directly references H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017, from the last Congress, with amendments passed by the Senate on June 28, 2018.  

S. 483 has moved to the House, where the timing of a vote currently is unclear.  The House will go into a week-long recess after today.  It is possible that the bill will not further progress until the House reconvenes on February 25, 2019. 

The effect on EPA and the regulated community during this transition is also unclear.  Currently, EPA is sorting out applications and PRIA deadlines along with workload planning in the aftermath of the recently concluded federal government shutdown.  The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides for a reduction in applicable fees if PRIA is not reauthorized, but it is unclear if applications submitted during the transition will be assigned a PRIA review date.  If PRIA 4 is passed, we expect that the fee provisions will be retroactive and that EPA will send invoices to applicants for submissions made during the transition period for the difference between what was paid and the new PRIA 4 fee. 

More information on these topics is available in our blog items "Federal Budget Deal Negotiations Fail to Advance PRIA Reauthorization" and "Continuing Resolution to Re-open the Government Includes PRIA Extension."


 

By James V. Aidala, Sheryl Lindros Dolan, and Susan M. Kirsch

As reported in the trade press on February 14, 2019, following budget negotiations late on Wednesday, February 13, several legislative riders did not make it into the conference report for the final fiscal year (FY) 2019 omnibus spending package.  This purportedly includes an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) or the long-awaited Reauthorization known as “PRIA 4.”  This may be the result of political pressure to avoid another government shutdown with a “clean bill” package capable of garnering the necessary votes.  The Senate and House are expected to vote on the omnibus package today, February 14, 2019, ahead of the expiration of the current budget resolution on February 15.  While much is still in flux, the final omnibus package, once passed, will provide a clearer picture on any PRIA implications.  At this time it appears that, contrary to past budget resolutions, PRIA 3 will not be extended.  More information on the recent PRIA extensions is available in our blog items Continuing Resolution to Re-open the Government Includes PRIA Extension and Registrants Face PRIA and Shutdown Issues.

In the event of a lapse, the “phase-down” provisions in the statute will mean that new submissions require a reduced fee schedule, but submissions will no longer have an associated PRIA deadline for a decision on the application.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely “clarify” in the coming days and weeks what this means for any expectation for an application submitted during this time.  During the recent shutdown, EPA stated that applications submitted during that temporary lapse only required the reduced fee.  At that time, however, since no deadline was required for such an application, EPA advised that applicants should expect guidance as to when to expect a decision (that is, in effect, do not bother to submit things during the shutdown period since PRIA actions with an associated deadline will have priority for the foreseeable future).  When the federal government reopened on January 28, however, EPA processed all applications received during the shutdown as PRIA actions submitted on January 28.

Now with PRIA likely not in effect after February 15, 2019, even with an approved EPA budget for FY2019, EPA will have to evaluate what to communicate to applicants about what to expect during the time of the PRIA 3 phase-down.  Any plans for this period may be affected by provisions in PRIA 4.  On February 13, 2019, the Senate introduced standalone PRIA 4 legislation (S. 483) with bipartisan support which could facilitate relatively quick Senate action on a PRIA 4 proposal.  The House would also need to take action to renew the program.

Because no PRIA action was taken in the budget agreement, important questions now swirl about the program, including:  

  • What happens to any new submissions?  
  • Will there be impacts on pending deadlines?  
  • What exactly will happen to any submissions made during the current “no PRIA” period?  
  • What might be the longer term impact of this (in)action on general pesticide program operations (e.g., staffing, contracts, schedules for non-PRIA actions)?

EPA will be addressing these and many other important questions over the next few days. 


 

By James V. Aidala

The short-term continuing resolution (CR) includes an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) through the duration of the funding measure, February 15, 2019.  This was expected, and is welcome news to registrants who have delayed submittal of registration applications due to the shutdown.

The status of applications submitted during the shutdown period is uncertain at best.  As described in our earlier blog item Registrants Face PRIA and Shutdown Issues, registrants were advised to not submit applications during the shutdown as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has previously indicated that applications submitted during the shutdown would not be subject to any PRIA deadline.  During this period of budget battles and shutdown uncertainty, it would appear to be prudent to ensure that any applications for registration are submitted while EPA (and PRIA) are operational under appropriated funding.

While this is good news, the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of another shutdown at the end of this period not only makes planning difficult for registrants, it also creates workload management problems at EPA to deal with backlogs and unpredictable resources for processing pending and new applications.  EPA will have to clarify what the extended shutdown period means for processing times and priorities.  As of today, EPA is still literally sorting out applications and PRIA deadlines along with workload planning to determine how best to proceed.

Stay tuned …


 

By James V. Aidala, Lisa M. Campbell, and Sheryl Lindros Dolan

Although the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) was able to operate through December 28, 2018, despite the current partial federal government shutdown, EPA will now join other parts of the federal service and shut down.

Meanwhile, the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) sunset on December 21, 2018, in the absence of a Continuing Resolution (CR) and the onset of the shutdown.  According to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 33(m)(2)(B) [7 USC § 136w-8(m)(2)(B)], the fee for any pesticide application that is subject to a service fee and submitted after December 21, 2018, will be reduced by 70 percent below the fee in effect on September 30, 2017, but no corresponding review period will be assigned.  Any applications submitted now thus will not have a required EPA review period and thus will likely be the lowest priority for EPA review when the shutdown ends.  For this reason, despite the lower fees, registrants should not submit applications until PRIA is enacted and defined review periods once again are established.

The enactment of some version of PRIA is expected soon, especially given the consequences of the current situation for EPA and government functions generally.  Most likely any kind of authorization for funding government operations, such as a CR for a limited time period or for Fiscal Year 2019, is expected to include at least a simple reauthorization of the PRIA 3 for the duration of the CR.  This would also mean the new Congress will have to act sometime in the next session to reauthorize PRIA either to continue PRIA 3 beyond a new CR time period or approve amendments such as those considered as PRIA 4 during the 115th Congress.  Given the difficulty of Congress in reaching agreement on appropriations legislation, it is possible that PRIA reauthorizations continue to be included as part of CRs for an indefinite time period.

This uncertainty about the status of PRIA may also impact generally the program’s ability to plan and schedule review of registration applications.

Regardless of when PRIA is enacted, however, the shutdown will prevent EPA action on newly submitted applications.  OPP states on its web site:

  • Applications received on or prior to December 21, 2018, will be reviewed under the decision time frames specified in PRIA 3;
  • Applications received after December 21, 2018, will be subject to the provisions of FIFRA Section 33(m)(2)(B); and
  • Applications received after December 28, 2018, will not be considered as received or processed until the shutdown ends.

Registrants should monitor developments closely. 


 

By James V. Aidala and Lisa M. Campbell

On December 19, 2018, the Senate passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown and continue funding for the government through February 8, 2019.  Currently, however, given the uncertainty over border wall funding, it appears likely that there may well be a government shutdown for some period of time.  Until the immigration issue is ultimately resolved in an eventual agreement, however, the majority and Democratic staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee expect that the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) extension will be included in the CR.  Both the majority and minority in both the House and Senate have reportedly agreed to support PRIA in the new year.

The recent House Conference Report for H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or the Farm Bill, deleted previously inserted provisions regarding the Pesticide Registration Improvement Enhancement Act of 2017.  The House version of the Farm Bill included the enactment of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Enhancement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1029, Section 9119), but the Senate version contained no comparable provisions.  More information on the Farm Bill Conference Report is available in our memorandum “Congress Passes Farm Bill Conference Report.”

Commentary

The positive news is that many members of both the House and Senate appear to remain committed to legislative reauthorization of PRIA.  At the same time, with the change in party control in the House of Representatives, reauthorization may continue to be delayed as the new Congress with new Committee leadership devotes time and energy to competing priorities. 

In addition, as PRIA amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), it could provide an opportunity for amendments to FIFRA outside of the funding context to be offered by members interested in other pesticide-relevant issues.  Debate on additional pesticide issues would only likely lead to further delay and uncertainty about long-term reauthorization of PRIA.