Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sens. Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kansas), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan to redirect the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs away from their current propensity for overly cautious blanket bans and severe restrictions of necessary crop protection tools back towards a regular, risk-based regulatory process. This request follows a meeting between the senators and Administrator Regan last month.
“U.S. farmers and ranchers are already coping with record inflation and broken supply chains — the last thing they need is EPA voluntarily revoking or severely limiting traditional farming tools and methods. If these producers lose the ability to use certain crop protection products, farms will be forced to forgo conservation practices, like no-till farming, and revert to full tillage methods to control pests,” the letter says.
Administrator Regan’s EPA has made several decisions this last year that will dramatically impact agriculture:
On November 12, 2021 – EPA issued new Biological Evaluations for glyphosate, atrazine, and simazine that inflate the number of species and habitats found likely to be adversely affected. Industry grower groups have sought to provide EPA with better, real-world data sources, including in comments on the draft biological evaluations (BE) — comments that EPA opted not to incorporate into the final BE. The final BE for glyphosate also assumes growers reapply chemistry seven days after an initial application. This is an unrealistic assumption for any producer and increases model exposure risks for species. Growers provided these and other real-world examples and data sources to EPA in public comments, which EPA chose not to incorporate into its final BE.
EPA is legally obligated to engage on formal consultations with Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service every time it finds a pesticide is likely to affect a species. When EPA uses assumptions in its BE that find more than 90% of species are affected, the agency is creating a high workload while having few resources to manage the work effectively. Triggering more species under the ESA via these evaluations opens the door for EPA to place restrictive mitigations requirements on the label.
On December 21, 2021, EPA put out an unrequired report tallying up the “increased number of drift complaints” of Dicamba from last growing season. EPA has said publicly that there have been nearly 3,500 off-target movement inquiries on dicamba from states. However, numerous state regulatory agencies dispute EPA’s drift complaints by reporting close to half the reported figure from EPA. Without meaningful use of over-the-top dicamba for the 2022 growing season, hundreds of thousands of farmers would likely be deprived of seed or herbicide during spring planting, which would be devastating for the agricultural economy
In September 2020, after several years of evaluation in the Registration Review, EPA approved and published the final Interim Registration Review Decision (IRRD) for the triazine herbicides. In this decision, EPA approved and published a revised CELOC (concentration-equivalent level of concern) used to determine potential risk to aquatic plant communities at 15 ppb. Shortly after the IRRD was published, activist groups filed a petition in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals alleging that EPA violated its duties under FIFRA when it approved the Interim Registration Review Decisions for atrazine, simazine and propazine. Last year, in an unprecedented move, EPA, in a motion in the court case, announced its intention to go back after the final decision was published and reevaluate that 15 ppb number which would create confusion about product use and monitoring if the agency changes the number.