Thursday U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler hosted U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Purdue, Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairwoman Mary B. Neumayr to discuss improving the Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation process for pesticides.
“The Trump Administration is committed to carrying out the important responsibilities of the Endangered Species Act to protect and promote the recovery of species while recognizing that pesticides are a critical tool for protecting public health, supporting our farmers, and ensuring an abundant food supply,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The goal of our Working Group is a streamlined ESA consultation process that is protective of species, timely for pesticide registration review decisions, and transparent to the public.”
The meeting is part of a coordinated federal effort, which was initiated in 2017 by senior staff at CEQ and EPA, to improve the process for protecting endangered species when registering pesticides. In January 2018, EPA, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Commerce signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) establishing an interagency working group tasked with providing recommendations to the agencies’ leadership on improving the ESA consultation process for pesticides. As part of this effort, in May 2019, EPA released for public comment proposed revised methods for evaluating pesticide risks to endangered species at the national level.
Perdue said in a tweet regarding the meeting that it is important for farmers to have “all the tools available so they can continue to be the most productive in the world.”
EPA is seeking feedback from stakeholders on this issue and will hold a public meeting on Monday, June 10.
The 2018 Farm Bill codified this interagency working group and MOA. Through the working group, the federal partners are continuing to review relevant laws and regulations, review current and past ESA processes, provide recommendations to improve scientific and policy approaches, develop agency/department specific strategies for streamlining the ESA process, and continuing to coordinate with stakeholders throughout the process.