Sep 11, 2023
EPA extends comment period on herbicide policy changes

The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the comment period on a proposed 900-page Herbicide Strategy.

The agency released the strategy on July 24, and the original comment deadline of Sept. 22 has been extended a month, to Oct. 22. Comments are accepted at the Federal Register.epa-standard logoThe announcement follows considerable pushback from stakeholders, including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Crop Life America, the Agricultural Retailers’ Association and more than 15 national or state crop specific organizations.

John Boatright, AFBF director of government affairs, said EPA’s draft Herbicide Strategy is an attempt to try to bring pesticide registration regulations into compliance with Endangered Species Act obligations.

The proposed strategy — which is primarily designed to provide early mitigations that minimize impacts to more than 900 listed species — is one of EPA’s most significant proposals to date and spans more than 900 pages.

“That means anytime that they (EPA) must consider, review or register a pesticide product, they must factor in the impacts of that product on endangered species and the critical habitats on which those species rely,” Boatright said.

As currently drafted, the proposal will affect agricultural crop uses in the lower 48 states. Additionally, hundreds of listed species in the lower 48 states live in habitats adjacent to agricultural areas, according to Boatright.

In a letter announcing the 30-day extension, EPA Director of Environmental Fate and Effects Division Office of Pesticide Programs Jan Matuszko acknowledged industry concerns and requests for an extension were “appropriate.”

“The draft strategy and its supporting documents are lengthy and complex, totaling nearly 900 pages. And the draft strategy is one of our first attempts across pesticides to work differently and address potential impacts to listed species earlier in the process in a different, more efficient manner,” Matuszko said.

Once finalized, Matuszko said EPA will employ the herbicide strategy to identify when mitigations are needed as well as the level and geographic extent of those mitigations when registering and re-evaluating any herbicide with agricultural uses.

According to AFBF’s Boatright, the proposed rule will affect all farmers who use conventional herbicides.

“We’re encouraging our members and producers around the country to certainly be aware of the proposal, and what they’re planning, at least initially, to do in regard to pesticide applications and herbicide applications, and to be involved with their different industry organizations who may have a role in advocating for the best possible policy,” he said.

Submitted comments

A number of specialty crop industry members have submitted comments on the Herbicide Strategy:

“The draft Herbicide Strategy reflects an approach that will have potential widespread impacts on potato production as herbicides are widely used by growers. Overall, if finalized as proposed, the approach reflected in the draft Herbicide Strategy will likely result in significant burdens for growers throughout the country because of having to address additional restrictions including in some cases, resulting in being unable to use the herbicide tools they need to address their pest problems. Obviously, this will have significant negative economic consequences for their farm operations.” — Mike Wenkel, chief operating officer of the National Potato Council.

“The documents associated with the framework are lengthy (totality nearly 900 pages) and complicated, requiring significant analysis to comprehend the potential impacts to specialty crop growers. Further, we must engage with our growers and member organizations in our evaluation of the mitigations and consideration of other approaches to protect non-target organisms while maintaining access to vital pesticide tools. This is a challenging and time-consuming endeavor, particularly when you consider the diversity of crops and cropping systems captured under specialty crops.” — Rebeckah Adcock, vice president of U.S. government relations for the International Fresh Produce Association.

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