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Republican ag leaders want chlorpyrifos decision rescinded

Getty Images EPA Michael Regan
House Ag and Senate Ag committee ranking members want to ensure science-based decision making prevails at EPA.

EPA’s recent actions on chlorpyrifos as well as actions taking on biological evaluations for glyphosate and atrazine has many House and Senate agriculture leaders concerned. A bicameral effort led by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., asked for the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind its previous action on chlorpyrifos.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan the Congressional Republican members point out how the agency ignored the safety findings of its own career scientists when making its decision on chlorpyrifos which has caused tremendous stress for producers, who are already struggling to navigate the supply chain crisis.

“EPA’s blatant disregard for the work of its career scientists and the significant confusion the agency’s decision has created for producers, channels of trade, and our nation’s food supply has inserted further uncertainty and stress for producers attempting to navigate the nation’s growing supply-chain problems at a time when producers are making key planting and purchasing decisions on hundreds of millions of acres for the 2022 growing season. The significance of the supply chain problems and impacts to the producers and rural communities cannot be overstated,” the letter says.

“As such, we request EPA rescind its August 2021 final rule revoking food tolerances for chlorpyrifos and proceed with reviewing current uses under its ongoing registration review of this chemistry,” the members write. “At a bare minimum, EPA should delay the effective date of its August 2021 final rule until the Agency has provided complete and final answers to the regulated community on the phase out implementation of this critical crop protection tool.”

Chlorpyrifos has more than 50 registered agricultural uses on numerous crops, many of which are high-benefit uses to protect against economically significant pests. In October, 80 agricultural groups filed formal objections to EPA’s August decision to revoke all tolerances of chlorpyrifos.

Related: EPA’s chlorpyrifos revocation could cost growers millions

Soybean growers use chlorpyrifos to control both two-spotted spider mites and soybean aphid populations that have developed resistance to other insecticides, such as pyrethroids. These pests can inflict yield losses as high as 60% if left unchecked, they comments note. “Should this rule take effect, soybean growers who face TSM and pyrethroid-resistant aphids will now have to choose between applying twice as much pesticide active ingredient (which will also significantly increase their operational costs) or face serious crop damage.”

In the coalition letter earlier the fall, objectors from across the agriculture sector cited numerous concerns with EPA’s revocation decision, including the processes EPA used and lack of scientific basis. EPA’s own scientific record on chlorpyrifos shows there are many safe, high-benefit uses of the chemistry that do not pose a dietary or environmental risk.

Additionally, EPA’s rule revokes tolerances on crop uses where many growers have few or no pest management alternatives, leaving them exposed to hundreds of millions of dollars in irreparable crop damage.

“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 Republican letter states. “Furthermore, it undermines confidence in the scientific integrity of EPA’s pesticide registration and registration review regulatory processes.”

Additional lack of science-based actions

The legislators also state concerns are not limited to this single chemistry, as the concerns extend to the “dangerous posture” EPA seems to be taking on the valuable tools stakeholders and producers rely upon every day to produce the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply in the world. EPA’s recent biological evaluations for glyphosate, atrazine, and simazine finding “likely to adversely affect” one or more species under the Endangered Species Act is yet another example of the agency departing from a science-driven, risk-based approach to conducting this critical work and instead, embracing a “precautionary principal” approach to the agency’s work.

The statement on the biological evaluations follows up on concerns voiced recently by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and American Farm Bureau Federation.

Related: EPA abandons science, and growers will pay the price

“Equally alarming are current industry reports of EPA political officials signaling future harmful actions relating to various herbicides and other crop protection tools. 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,” they warn.

“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,” the members wrote.



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