Republican senators met via Zoom with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and EPA officials to discuss the problematic direction EPA is headed with decisions that restrict access to safe and necessary crop protection products.
Regan’s EPA has made several decisions this last year that will dramatically impact agriculture. Senators Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, held a Zoom call with Regan and staff to explain their concerns.
“EPA has been working on several registration-related items in the pesticides office dealing with dicamba, glyphosate, chlorpyrifos and the triazine herbicides, but we don’t think that EPA is sufficiently engaged with USDA, the registrants and growers to fully understand what the implications of those decisions can be,” the senators state in a joint statement.
On November 12, EPA issued new biological evaluations for glyphosate, atrazine and simazine that vastly inflate the number of species and habitats found likely to be adversely affected. Growers, led by corn and soybean commodity groups, have sought to provide the agency with better, real-world data sources, including in comments on the draft BEs—comments that EPA opted not to incorporate into the final BE.
In mid-December, EPA put out an unrequired, not mandated report tallying up the “increased number of drift complaints” of dicamba from last growing season.
In September 2020, after several years of evaluation in the registration review, EPA approved and published the final Interim Registration Review Decision (IRRD) for the triazine herbicides. In this decision, EPA approved and published a revised CELOC (concentration-equivalent level of concern) used to determine potential risk to aquatic plant communities at 15 ppb.
Shortly after the IRRD was published, activist groups filed a petition in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals alleging that EPA violated its duties under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act when it approved the Interim Registration Review Decisions for atrazine, simazine and propazine.
Last year, in an unprecedented move, EPA, in a motion in the court case, announced its intention to go back after the final decision was published and reevaluate that 15 ppb number which would create confusion about product use and monitoring if the agency changes the number, the senators explain.
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Chlorpyrifos action is another one that has presented concern. On August 18, 2021, in response to a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, EPA made the “overly conservative, political decision to revoke all food tolerances and to stop the use of chlorpyrifos rather than modify the tolerances.”
The topic of chlorpyrifos was also brought up with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during the House Agriculture Committee hearing on January 20. Regarding chlorpyrifos, Vilsack says, “We have ongoing discussions with EPA. I don’t know if we’ve reached consensus, but discussions are ongoing.”
“Crop protection products play a crucial role in U.S. food production yet are a common target of this administration. These products are essential for farmers to leave their land and world cleaner, healthier, and safer than they found it,” the senators state. “As such, we must keep up the fight for our farmers so they have access to affordable pesticides and herbicides. If the EPA restricts some of the most widely used and basic weed and pest control products then our food production will be set back decades and will all but eliminate agriculture’s ability to store carbon in our soil.”