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A view down the row of a peach orchard Robb Reece/Getty Images
LAST RESORT: After all of the bans go into effect by 2021, farmers will still be able to use chlorpyrifos as a pesticide of last resort, though they will need to apply for permission to do so.

Maryland announces plans to phase out chlorpyrifos

The proposed regulations would immediately ban aerial application and other uses by year’s end.

Maryland is set to become the second state in the region to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) with an immediate ban on aerial applications and a ban on most other uses by the end of this year.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture announced last week that it was developing regulations to “immediately phase out the regular use of chlorpyrifos,” and that it was working with ag leaders, environmental advocates and farmers to come up with a final plan to preserve the regulatory authority for its use.

“In light of the department’s ongoing conversations with farmers, I have directed MDA to convene all interested stakeholders and begin the process of crafting reasonable and responsible regulations that will accelerate the phase out of chlorpyrifos,” says Joe Bartenfelder, secretary of agriculture, in a press release. “This is in the best interest of the agriculture industry and the environment, and will protect the independence and integrity of our robust science-based regulatory framework while providing farmers time to identify alternative or replacement products.”

Colby Ferguson, government relations director for Maryland Farm Bureau, says the phasing out of chlorpyrifos by the department is the most workable alternative to a proposed ban that is currently being considered by the General Assembly.

“We just came to the conclusion … it was going to be almost impossible to stop it," he says. “We didn't want to mess up the regulatory framework, the science-based process in the state. We don't legislate pesticides, we regulate them. We wanted to keep that in place.”

Ferguson says the ag department, Farm Bureau, Maryland Grain Producers and other organizations have agreed to a timeline that would immediately ban aerial application of the pesticide and ban most all other uses by the end of 2020 with the exception of spraying tree trunks, which will be phased out by 2021. Farmers will still be able to use chlorpyrifos in 2022 as a “pesticide of last resort,” he says, but they will need to apply for permission to use it. All uses of chlorpyrifos will be phased out by the end of 2022, he says.

“The biggest thing, the farmers are disappointed that the state is dictating what we can and can't use what is federally labeled,” he says.   

Ferguson says that the use of chlorpyrifos, especially in corn, has dropped dramatically over the past 10 years due largely to the development of Bt corn, but it is still a valuable tool for peach growers who use it to control peach tree borer.

Lindsay Thompson, executive director of Maryland Grain Producers, says that less than 4,000 pounds of the pesticide were used in the state in 2014, the last time a pesticide use survey was conducted. Farmers use chlorpyrifos to control spider mites in soybeans and corn rootworm in non-Bt corn, she says.

“There are alternative products currently available, the issue is effectiveness,” she says. “Farmers are using chlorpyrifos as part of their IPM programs and only when absolutely necessary because it’s very effective. Other products may need to be used several times for equal control.”

Corteva, the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, announced earlier this month that it was ending production of the pesticide due to declining sales.

New York state is also phasing out the pesticide’s use. Late last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos by July 2021.

California and Hawaii have passed bans on chlorpyrifos while other states, including Oregon, are also considering bans.

Federal action

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided last summer to not ban chlorpyrifos after it was ordered last April to issue a final decision on objections to the pesticide’s use.

Chlorpyrifos has been used as a pesticide since 1965 in both agricultural and nonagricultural areas and was produced by Dow Chemical.

According to EPA, the largest agricultural market for chlorpyrifos in terms of total pounds of active ingredient is corn, but it is also used on soybeans, fruit and nut trees, and other fruits and vegetables.

According to EPA, chlorpyrifos is currently undergoing a registration review, a program that re-evaluates all pesticides on a 15-year cycle.

The agency says that it will complete its review deadline by Oct. 1, 2022.

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