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NASDA comments on EPA’s pesticide rule changes

Thinkstock farmer spraying pesticides
EPA’s revisions to pesticide Application Exclusion Zone requirements welcomed by state ag departments.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approving its revisions to pesticide Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements. NASDA’s comments outlined the importance of clear regulations, flexibility for farm operators and assured safety for all farm workers.

“NASDA is confident that the safety of farmers and farm workers will not be compromised by any of these changes,” NASDA chief executive officer Dr. Barb Glenn said in the comments. The proposed revisions will also clarify AEZ requirements and changes, creating more consistency for pesticide operators.

Noting that NASDA represents the lead state agencies for implementing agricultural regulations, Glenn encouraged EPA to work closely with NASDA members on incorporating the AEZ revisions.

The proposed revisions would limit the AEZ to within the boundaries of the agricultural establishment. NASDA supports the change and believes that the revised proposal will create more consistency.

NASDA's comments said it is important to highlight that pesticide handlers are already complying with multiple safety measurements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), such as the “do not contact” requirement, which implements restrictions during applications by ensuring that the pesticides applied do not contact workers or other people. 

“Protecting agricultural workers from potential adverse effects of pesticides is an important function of state departments of agriculture, which are the primary co-regulators of FIFRA with EPA. NASDA is supportive of the EPA’s WPS measures, but as this regulatory framework evolves, we need to ensure that the new provisions being included are not duplicative, unnecessary or confusing,” the comments noted.

The 2015 WPS rule was silent on if and when a handler could resume an application after it has been suspended because workers or other people were present in the AEZ. This was probably because EPA never envisioned that AEZ requirements could lead to an application being potentially suspended permanently. The clarification being proposed by EPA to explicitly state when applications can be resumed are welcomed. EPA is proposing revise the WPS to clarify that handlers may resume a suspended application when no workers or other people remain in an AEZ within the boundaries of the establishment.

“Even though this clarification may seem common sense, when dealing with pesticide safety rules, clarity is key,” NASDA said.

As Glenn stated after EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s announcement of the new provisions in October 2019, NASDA members take seriously the responsibility to protect the nation’s agricultural workforce and the viability of farms and ranches.

TAGS: Policy
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