EPA reverses course on chlorpyrifos

Move comes in response to appeals court ruling.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

December 22, 2023

2 Min Read
Green soybean field with farm in background
Getty Images/Timothy Hearsum

The EPA announced it will rescind a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos for 11 agricultural uses. The move comes in response to a November Federal Appeals Court decision to nullify the agency’s ban. Multiple ag groups applauded the decision.

The American Soybean Association has repeatedly spoken out against the blanket ban on chlorpyrifos. ASA director Alan Meadows says farmers rely on it to protect crops from destructive pests and to maintain conservation practices. He says the ban has harmed farmers’ crops and their livelihoods.

“U.S. soybean growers welcome the announcement that chlorpyrifos tolerances and uses will be restored and EPA will commit to a science-based review of the pesticide in the days ahead, as ordered by the Eighth Circuit Court,” Meadows says. “EPA’s own science has repeatedly found there are at least 11 high-benefit, safe uses of chlorpyrifos, including for soybeans—a fact of which we will continue to remind the agency throughout this process.”

EPA banned most chlorpyrifos agriculture uses in 2022 after a court ruled the previous year that new rules were needed to protect infants and young children. Ag groups despised the ban, contending that data show chlorpyrifos can be safely applied under certain conditions. They argued in court that EPA should have conducted more studies instead of imposing an outright ban.

The Eighth Circuit Court agreed, paving the way for chlorpyrifos to be used on alfalfa, apples, asparagus, tart cherries, citrus, cotton, peaches, soybeans, strawberries, sugar beets and wheat.

Unsurprisingly, environmental groups were disappointed in the decision. Earthjustice, the organization whose lawsuit helped lead to the ban, vowed to continue their fight against chlorpyrifos. The point to studies conducted by Columbia University that show even small amount of exposing can hinder brain development and learn it impairment like decreased IQ, autism, and hyperactivity.

“Harm from chlorpyrifos is generational — children don’t get a do-over on brain development and acute poisonings have a cumulative effect on the long-term health of farmworkers and their families,” Earthjustice associate attorney Noorulanne Jan says. “Pursuing environmental justice means protecting children and farmworker families — EPA should act accordingly.”

American Sugarbeet Growers Association Nate Hultgren counters that his organization is committed to strong stewardship and safety principles. He says they look forward to working with EPA to enact rules that are science-based and include grower input.

“While we appreciate that EPA has taken the necessary steps to ensure access for the upcoming growing season, it can’t undo the economic harm that resulted from its previous revocation activity,” Hultgren says. “Growers need tools like this to reduce economic harm stemming from pest and disease.”

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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