Letter to Congress: Oppose the “Poison Our Waters Provision” in the Farm Bill

May 11, 2018

Dear Representative,

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, we urge you to vote against H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (“House Farm Bill”). H.R. 2 includes scores of anti-environmental provisions, like damaging language best described as the “Poison Our Waters Provision,” which would gut vital Clean Water Act safeguards that protect our waterways and communities from excessive pesticide pollution. This damaging provision -- which has been pushed by pesticide manufacturers and other special interests have been pushing for years -- is opposed by nearly 200 public health, fishing, and conservation organizations from across the country, as well as the Obama Administration.1

The “Poison Our Waters Provision” (Sections 9117 and 9118) in the House Farm Bill would eliminate Clean Water Act safeguards to protect communities from pesticides sprayed directly into water supplies. This would thus remove all meaningful oversight for this pesticide spraying since the federal pesticide registration law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)) does not require tracking of such applications. The Clean Water Act Pesticide General Permit at issue has been in place for more than six years now and alarmist predictions by pesticide manufacturers and others about the impacts of this permit have failed to bear any fruit.2

For example, contrary to earlier claims made by its proponents, this provision will not improve nor impact spraying to combat Zika virus and other human health threats. The Pesticide General Permit already allows for emergency spraying to combat vector-borne diseases such as Zika and the West Nile virus. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the permit “provides that pesticide applications are covered automatically under the permit and may be performed immediately for any declared emergency pest situations” (emphasis added).3

Further, the Clean Water Act has no significant effect on farming practices. The Pesticide General Permit in no way affects land applications of pesticides for the purpose of controlling pests (that is, spraying that doesn’t discharge into water bodies). Irrigation return flows and agricultural stormwater runoff do not require permits, even when they contain pesticides because they have always been exempted from the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Act Pesticide General Permit Program allows the public to access information that they couldn’t obtain otherwise about the types of pesticides being sprayed or discharged into local bodies of water. All across the country, pesticide applicators are complying with the Pesticide General Permit to protect water quality without issue.

The Pesticide General Permit simply lays out commonsense practices for applying pesticides directly to waters that currently fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Efforts to block this permit are misguided and widely opposed (see attached list of nearly 200 groups in opposition to this provision), and would only cause further harm to the clean water sources that we all rely on.

Please protect public health and our waterways by opposing the “Poison Our Waters Provision” as well as other anti-environmental provisions and voting NO on H.R. 2.


Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Assateague Coastal Trust/Assateague COASTKEEPER

Atchafalaya Basinkeeper

Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate

Cahaba River Society

Cape Fear River Watch

Center for a Sustainable Coast

Center for Biological Diversity

Clark Fork Coalition

Clean Water Action

Collier County Waterkeeper

Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River

Cook Inletkeeper

Crystal Coast Waterkeeper

Defenders of Wildlife


Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc

Endangered Habitats League

Endangered Species Coalition

Environment America

Environmental and Energy Study Institute

Freshwater Future

Friends of the Earth

Great Rivers Habitat Alliance

Gulf Restoration Network

Humboldt Baykeeper

Idaho Rivers United

Illinois Council of Trout Unlimited

Kootenai Environmental Alliance

League of Conservation Voters

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association

Miami Waterkeeper

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Montana Audubon

Montana Wildlife Federation


North Sound Baykeeper at RE Sources

Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper

Ohio Environmental Council

OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Pennsylvania Council of Churches


Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Poudre Waterkeeper

Public Citizen

Rio Grande Waterkeeper

Rogue Riverkeeper

Rural Coalition

Russian Riverkeeper

San Francisco Baykeeper Save EPA

Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

Seneca Lake Guardian, A Waterkeeper Affiliate

ShoreRivers, Inc.

Sierra Club

Snake River Waterkeeper

Southern Environmental Law Center

St. Johns Riverkeeper

Suncoast Waterkeeper

Tennessee Riverkeeper

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.

Upper Green River Network, a Colorado Riverkeeper Affiliate

Wabash Riverkeeper

Waterkeeper Alliance

Waterkeepers Chesapeake

WildEarth Guardians

Winyah Rivers Foundation

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

1 President Barack Obama: "Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 897 - Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015," May 23, 2016. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, available at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=117996.

2 See testimony of Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assist. Administrator, Office of Water, U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (March 18, 2015): “We have not been made aware of any issues associated with the Pesticide General Permit. Nobody has brought an instance to our attention where somebody has not been able to apply a pesticide in a timely manner . . . [t]here have been no instances. We’ve been getting very good data. . ..” available at http://transportation.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398705 3 U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, Pesticide General Permit Factsheet: Mosquito Control Activities, available at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/pgp_factsheet_mosquitocontrol.pdf