A group of 33 Republican legislators sent a letter to EPA on Monday, decrying the agency’s recent regulatory actions on several ag pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, glyphosate and atrazine. The letter also signals that the legislators will fight any future additional regulations on other herbicides, at a time when the agency is considering potential changes to dicamba use.
The letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan was spearheaded by the Republican leaders of the Agriculture Committees in the Senate and House, U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., and included nine other Senate Agriculture Committee members and 22 House Agriculture Committee members.
It focused on EPA’s recent decision to revoke food tolerances for chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide that has been the subject of lawsuits and regulatory action over human health concerns for decades.
EPA’s decision was driven by a federal court order, and once it takes full effect on Feb. 28, 2022, it will effectively ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food or feed crops. The ban, a long-fought victory for environmental and farmworker groups, has already drawn criticism from the agricultural industry, including a formal objection issued by more than 80 agricultural groups in October.
The EPA’s pending chlorpyrifos ban also reversed a move by the Trump EPA to keep it on the market, which the letter referenced, characterizing the ban as “EPA’s recent decision to ignore the safety findings of its own career scientists.”
“EPA’s decided path not only undermines the scientifically rigorous work of the agency, it removes a critical crop protection tool without readily available alternatives and creates a great deal of uncertainty for growers,” the lawmakers wrote. “Furthermore, it undermines confidence in the scientific integrity of EPA’s pesticide registration and registration review regulatory processes.”
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They asked Regan to rescind that final rule revoking the insecticide’s food tolerances, or at least delay its implementation “until the agency has provided complete and final answers to the regulated community on the phase-out implementation” of chlorpyrifos.
The letter also mentioned EPA’s two recently released biological evaluations on glyphosate and atrazine, which found both herbicides are likely to adversely affect the majority of federally listed endangered species and critical habitats.
Although these opinions do not immediately affect the registrations of glyphosate and atrazine, they could lead to label changes if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, National Marine Fisheries Service and EPA decide they are necessary.
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The legislators’ letter was released at a critical time for the ag industry, as EPA weighs potential regulatory action on three dicamba herbicides used over the top of dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton, XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium.
Although those herbicides received a five-year registration under the Trump EPA in October 2020, the Biden EPA has told media and industry that it is alarmed at the continued problem of off-target dicamba injury in the 2021 growing season and may consider changes to those registrations.
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The legislators’ letter appeared to reference this coming decision, as well as recent rumors flying through the industry over EPA possibly revoking over-the-top use of these herbicides.
“Equally alarming are current industry reports of EPA political officials signaling future harmful actions related to various herbicides and other crop protection tools,” the legislators wrote. “If accurate, these reports indicate another EPA end-run around its own scientific and regulatory process contrary to the Agency’s congressionally-mandated, science-driven, and risk-based registration or registration review process.”
The letter concluded: “Given these concerns, we seek your assurance that, going forward, EPA will not depart from its science-driven, risk-based, congressionally-mandated registration or registration review process of critical crop protection tools at a time when the supply chain is failing, availability of crop protection tools and other inputs is becoming more and more scarce, and record inflation is driving up the cost of production and, in turn, the cost of food for the consumer.”
As of press time, EPA had not responded to DTN’s request for comment.
See the full letter here.
Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org
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