Neonic Regs: EPA and Ag Groups Ask for Summary Judgment

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should not be regulating neonicotinoid seed treatments in the same way it regulates other pesticide applications, the agency and a list of agriculture companies and interest groups told a federal court Friday.

    The agency filed a motion for summary judgement in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California in San Francisco. It was joined in that motion by CropLife America, American Seed Trade Association, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Soybean Association, National Cotton Council of America, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Corn Growers Association. The motion asks the court to rule in their favor on a lawsuit environmentalists and beekeepers filed earlier this year.

    Summary judgement means the defendants in the case want the court to issue a ruling on the facts agreed upon by both sides. Such a ruling essentially would end the lawsuit without a trial taking place.

    The lawsuit in question was filed in early 2016 to force the EPA to require neonicotinoid seed treatments to have full label registration through the Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, just as pesticides that are sprayed on crops must have. The lawsuit was filed by The Center for Food Safety and other environmental groups, beekeeper groups from California, South Dakota and Pennsylvania, as well as farmers from Pennsylvania and Kansas.

    EPA has maintained that treating seed with a pesticide is not the same as a broad application of that pesticide.

    The plaintiff groups argue that neonicotinoids, due to their use on a high percentage of commodity crop seeds, are used extensively enough on large acreages that EPA needs to more thoroughly assess their environmental effects.

    Neonicotinoids are part of most modern corn seed treatment packages and also used on soybeans and other crop seeds. The lawsuit, if successful, would have significant implications in how EPA would regulate seed treatments used by farmers on more than 150 million acres nationally.

    In the motion, EPA argued that courts “have consistently refused to entertain” suits that challenge agency policies. EPA also argued most of the issues raised in the litigation lack jurisdiction because the plaintiffs want a federal court review of a “guidance document” and not EPA’s final regulatory action. In another argument, EPA claims the plaintiffs haven’t defined a clear duty EPA should take to enforce the FIFRA law.

    The agricultural groups jumped into the lawsuit in the middle of March, and were allowed by the court to intervene in the case on EPA’s behalf.

    The agribusiness groups have argued seed treatments were created to provide precise, low-dose applications of pesticides and are economical. The treatments minimize impacts to non-target organism and reduce the amounts of chemical pesticides applied by sprayers.

    The farm groups said in earlier court filings that EPA already has conducted a vigorous review of seed treatments through the FIFRA law. The groups contend EPA found that seed treatments perform their “intended function without unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.”

    The court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the motion Oct. 27.

    Todd Neeley can be reached at

    Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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