State ag departments ask for delay in pesticide worker standard

NASDA said EPA's work to develop and provide critical compliance and enforcement materials remains incomplete ahead of Jan. 2 implementation.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extend the implementation of all revised provisions of the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, NASDA director of public policy Nathan Bowen said the worker standards for pesticide handling should be delayed until Jan. 2, 2018, or until EPA has finalized and delivered adequate enforcement guidance, education materials and training resources to the state lead agencies (SLAs) and provided the SLAs with the tools and financial resources necessary to effectively implement the rule changes and assist the regulated community with compliance activities.

NASDA represents the commissioners, secretaries and directors of the state departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. State departments of agriculture are responsible for a wide range of programs, including food safety, combating the spread of disease, and fostering the economic vitality of our rural communities. Conservation and environmental protection are also among its chief responsibilities. In 43 states and Puerto Rico, the state department of agriculture is a co-regulator with EPA and responsible for administering, implementing and enforcing the production, labeling, distribution, sale, use and disposal of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and other applicable laws and regulations.

In the letter, Bowen said he appreciated EPA’s program staff’s ongoing efforts to develop, revise, finalize and disseminate complete and accurate training materials, enforcement guidance, compliance materials and other necessary educational resources to assist EPA’s state regulatory partners with executing a successful implement of the final rule changes. He said state departments of agriculture have been working diligently prior to the Jan. 2, 2017, and 2018 implementation dates.

“Unfortunately, NASDA notes much of EPA’s work to develop and provide these critical compliance and enforcement materials to state regulatory agencies remains incomplete,” Bowen wrote.

Bowen said frustrating the development and delivery of these critical training, guidance and compliance materials was the insertion and final articulation of the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ), which EPA has publicly acknowledged goes beyond the agency’s stated intent. “NASDA understands EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is working to issue interpretive guidance clarifying the agency’s intent under the final regulation; however, agency guidance does not carry the weight and authority of a codified federal regulation and does not provide the necessary clarity to assist state regulatory agencies with compliance and enforcement activities,” the letter noted.

Bowen wrote, “At this time, even if all of the compliance and enforcement materials were completed and distributed to all the appropriate state enforcement agencies, there are simply not enough calendar days or training opportunities available in 2016 outreach and educational activities between the SLAs and the regulated community necessary to facilitate a successful implementation of the provisions scheduled to take effect on Jan. 2, 2017.”

Bowen said the extension to the implementation timeline is essential to ensure that EPA’s state regulatory partners and the regulated community have the appropriate information, training and resources necessary to effectuate a successful implementation of the worker protection standards rule changes.

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