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California reaches agreement to phase out chlorpyrifos use

fotokostic/iStock/Getty Images Plus farmer spraying pesticides on field
Agreement with Dow AgroSciences will end sale of pesticide by February 2020.

The California Environmental Protection Agency announced that virtually all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in California will end next year following an agreement between the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and pesticide manufacturers to withdraw their products.

Chlorpyrifos is used to control pests on a variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts. It has declined in use over the past decade as California growers have shifted to safer alternatives. Use of the pesticide dropped more than 50%, from 2 million lb. in 2005 to just over 940,000 lb. in 2017, DPR said in a statement. 

In 2015, DPR made chlorpyrifos a restricted material in California. This means that only trained, licensed professionals who have a permit from a local county agricultural commissioner may use products containing chlorpyrifos. Earlier this year, DPR announced that it was acting to ban use of chlorpyrifos by canceling the pesticide’s product registrations.

The agreement with Dow AgroSciences and other companies means that use of chlorpyrifos will end sooner than anticipated had the companies pursued administrative hearings and potential appeals process, which could have taken up to two years. Under the settlement, the companies agreed that:

  • All sales of chlorpyrifos products to growers in California will end on Feb. 6, 2020.
  • Growers will no longer be allowed to possess or use chlorpyrifos products in California after Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Until then, all uses must comply with existing restrictions, including a ban on aerial spraying, implementing quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives. DPR said it will support aggressive enforcement of these restrictions.

To ensure consistency for growers and for enforcement purposes, DPR is applying the terms and deadlines in the settlements to seven other companies that are not part of the settlement agreement but are subject to the department’s cancellation orders. 

A few products that apply chlorpyrifos in granular form, representing less than 1% of the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, will be allowed to remain on the market. These products are not associated with detrimental health effects. DPR will continue to monitor for any exposures associated with these products.

“This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices.” California secretary for environmental protection Jared Blumenfeld said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsome said, “For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities. Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California.”

Meanwhile, DPR and the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) have established a cross-sector working group to identify, evaluate and recommend safer, more sustainable pest management alternatives to chlorpyrifos. It will hold its first meeting this month and will hold three public workshops beginning in January.

The development of safe, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos is being supported through the current state budget, which appropriates more than $5 million in grant funding for the purpose.

DPR will award more than $2.1 million in grants to fund projects that identify, develop and implement safer, practical and sustainable pest management alternatives to chlorpyrifos.

CDFA will award approximately $2 million in grants to expand outreach about innovative, biologically integrated farming systems that reduce chemical insecticide inputs. Crops that have used chlorpyrifos will be a priority.

CFDA will also fund approximately $1.5 million in research to develop alternatives to chlorpyrifos that provide safer, more sustainable pest management solutions.

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), called it a “landmark victory for the health of California’s farmworkers, rural families and children across the country.” Rotkin-Ellman added that NRDC will continue to push EPA to extend these protections beyond California’s borders to people nationwide.

NRDC has ongoing litigation with the Trump Administration over what it said is a “refusal to ban the chemical from use on U.S. food crops.” Hawaii has started the process to ban the chemical, and the New York legislature passed a ban that awaits the governor’s signature.

TAGS: Policy
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