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Worker protection rule delay sought by Farm Bureau, NASDA

Groups cite EPA violations of federal law as well as incomplete and undelivered compliance and enforcement tools to support their petition.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to delay the January 2017 start date of its worker protection safety (WPS) rule. AFBF and NASDA cited EPA violations of federal law as well as incomplete and undelivered compliance and enforcement tools to support their petition.

According to the joint petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the WPS rule was issued in violation of federal law. The proposal, AFBF and NASDA told McCarthy, “fails to advance the purpose of furthering the safety of farm workers.” The rule’s rapidly approaching implementation also poses “a serious problem for administration of the rule’s requirements” by state departments of agriculture as well as farmers and ranchers who must comply with its terms.

“We ask EPA to delay the effective date to give NASDA members adequate time to prepare for compliance with the rule and to avoid the unfair and un-redressable harm to farmers and ranchers,” the groups said.

The petition from AFBF and NASDA claims that EPA did not meet the law’s requirements when it failed to provide congressional agriculture committees with a final copy of the regulations, along with the copy sent to the agriculture secretary. EPA has acknowledged the omission in responses to questions from Congress.

“EPA’s failure to meet its statutory obligations deprived Congress of its lawful expectation of examining the regulation before its promulgation,” the petition states.

The groups also claimed that the rule’s “designated representative” provision exceeds the scope of the WPS rule by depriving farmers of reasonable expectation of privacy for confidential business information. The groups said the rule subjects farmers to potential harassment and public criticisms for lawful use of EPA-approved pesticides. In spite of the groups identifying problems related to equity and implementation of the WPS rule, EPA has not addressed the problems.

The petition also asserts that EPA has failed to finalize and deliver to state lead agencies the enforcement guidance, educational materials and training resources needed to effectively implement the rule and assist farmers and ranchers with compliance efforts.

“At this time, even if all of the compliance and enforcement materials were completed and distributed to all the appropriate state enforcement agencies, there is simply not enough time for the (state lead agencies) and the regulated community to successfully implement the provisions scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2017,” the petition states. “In short, EPA has failed to develop and deliver the necessary resources for states to train the regulated community on the new requirements, and the agency has failed to comply with its own WPS implementation timeline.”

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