The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that may require farmers to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits when applying pesticides to or near water sources.

Until the 6th Circuit ruling, EPA had considered pesticide applications over or near water to be exempt from the point-source pollutant regulations of the Clean Water Act. The ruling in the case of the National Cotton Council vs. EPA appears to remove that exemption.

A number of farm groups, crop protection companies and other organizations filed a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Other organizations filed friends of the court briefs pointing out why the ruling would have an adverse affects on farmers and other pesticide applicators.

“The panel’s ruling creates another legal burden for our farmers, custom applicators and agricultural dealers, and leads to additional regulations which may well further prevent food growers from maximizing their output,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America.

“We are disappointed that the 6th Circuit’s decision could cause the U.S. government to continue to practice a precautionary policy which is detrimental not only for farmers, but could prevent the country from producing more food, fuel and fiber for a growing world population.”

The final decision by the 6th Circuit is stayed until April 2011 to give EPA time to develop a permitting system for pesticide applications over or near water. Vroom said CLA will continue to pursue additional avenues to contain the 6th Circuit’s ruling.

“While we recognize that only a very small percentage of cert petitions are accepted for review,” said Douglas Nelson, executive vice president and general counsel of CLA, “we are also aware of decisions of other federal courts in NPDES cases which affirm the regulatory framework of EPA and Congress to treat pesticides as non-point source applications. Regardless, CLA will continue to work with EPA to minimize the burden placed on farmers and reduce the disruption this will cause across the crop protection industry.”