CPDA Submits Comments on EPA's Vulnerable Species Pilot Project
Last week, CPDA submitted comments to EPA on its Vulnerable Species Pilot Project (VSPP). The VSPP seeks to identify specific vulnerable Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species, identify ways to protect them from pesticide exposure, and then to implement restrictions for different types of pesticides to protect a particular species. The protections available to growers include reducing pesticide rates, precision sprayers, hooded sprayers, no-till/minimum-till systems, and cover crops. Nowhere in the EPA proposal are drift reduction adjuvants mentioned as a possible mitigation option for reducing or eliminating offsite movement.
The VSPP is just the tip of the iceberg of future ESA-mandated label restrictions being implemented throughout the crop protection industry. This promises to be a CPDA policy priority for years to come.
To explain how we got here, a little background is necessary.
The ESA and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) were never intended to interact. In 1972, Congress passed the modern-day version FIFRA and the accompanying Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) as the sole federal statutes for regulating pesticides. ESA was passed one year later. However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) never saw FIFRA as the only regulator of pesticides.
In 2001, ESA and FIFRA began to collide. That’s when NGOs used the much more expansive authority under the ESA to file suit against the EPA for its failure to “consult” with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding the possible effects of fifty-eight different pesticides on endangered salmon and trout in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. One of the key provisions of the ESA is the requirement that all federal agencies “consult” with either NMFS or FWS (collectively, “the Services”) if an agency action could affect threatened and endangered species.
That’s a problem because EPA and the Services have dramatically different views on how to assess and manage potential risks to fish, wildlife, and plant species from the use of pesticides. That’s because there are fundamental legal and science policy differences related to their respective obligations under ESA and FIFRA. The result has been an inability to develop a workable process for consultation under ESA. This conflict is now threatening agricultural productivity and global competitiveness while providing no corresponding benefit to threatened and endangered species. This has played out in EPA’s VSPP.
CPDA’s comments to EPA’s VSPP focus on two areas.
The obvious omission of adjuvants as a mitigation strategy. We urged the Agency to move quickly to include adjuvants as a highlighted option.
We noted the potential impacts of the VSPP proposal to agriculture. Yet, EPA has not attempted to assess the impacts to agriculture. For example, in some areas, the proposal is an effective de facto pesticide ban with no assessment whatever for how this might affect growers.
CPDA in its comments strongly recommended working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy. Making sweeping and far-reaching policy decisions of this kind without assessing the impacts, is irresponsible and reckless as nowhere in the VSPP White Paper or in the support documents does it mention or discuss the economic effects on farmers or agriculture from implementing the VSPP proposal.
Specifically, CPDA asked for an examination of how this would affect production agriculture. At a minimum, EPA should seek answers to the following questions:
- How many acres of farmland will this affect?
- What states are most impacted?
- What crops are affected?
- How will farm income be affected?
According to the USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture, 90% of all farms are small family farms. How will these farms be affected?
In addition, CPDA, along with 206 other organizations, added our name to VSPP comments prepared by the Pesticide Policy Coalition (PPC).
For a copy of CPDA’s comments, please contact Scott Rawlins at email@example.com.