Farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association (ASA), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the National Sorghum Producers (NSP), USA Rice Federation, and National Cotton Council have met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack at EPA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss recent court and EPA actions that cause ASA and soybean  farmers concern.
“ASA is concerned by recent court and EPA actions that could negatively affect U.S. farmers' competitiveness, hinder their ability to produce safe and abundant food, add needless regulation, and expose farmers to increased liability,” said ASA Chairman Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn.
The meeting was a result of discussions by ASA, NCGA, NAWG and NSP farmer-leaders with Secretary Vilsack at Commodity Classic earlier this month in Anaheim. In response to that discussion, Secretary Vilsack offered to put together a meeting of commodity group leaders with EPA Administrator Jackson and himself to further explore the concerns being expressed. Leaders representing the nation’s cotton  and rice  farmers also participated in today’s meeting to collectively express concerns on issues that would impact more than 90 percent of the crop planted area in the United States.
“ASA appreciates both Secretary Vilsack’s and EPA Administrator Jackson’s interest in understanding farmer concerns,” said Dodson. “We also are very appreciative of Secretary Vilsack’s efforts to facilitate this meeting to allow USDA, EPA, and commodity group leaders to engage in discussions on how EPA regulations and procedures can affect farmers and their ability to produce safe food using modern farming practices.”
Among the topics discussed during the March 25 meeting was the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (National Cotton Council vs. EPA), which held that agricultural pesticide applicators, state pest controllers and others who spray pesticides on or near water will no longer be exempted from having to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, even if they follow all label and application requirements. EPA estimates the ruling will apply to some 5.6 million annual pesticide applications for 365,000 applicators.
The court granted EPA a two-year stay to April 2011, to give it time to develop a permitting program. EPA is expected to propose a rule in April 2010, and finalize it in December 2010.
“ASA believes EPA must take great care in crafting a rule to minimize needless regulation and avoid forcing farmers to obtain permits for applying fully-approved crop protection products according to label directions,” commented Dodson. “Adding new regulatory and permitting steps would decrease the ability of U.S. farmers to produce safe and abundant food. This entire direction taken by the court also opens up the possibility that producers would incur huge costs defending against nuisance citizen suits.”
ASA and other commodity group leaders also expressed concern about EPA’s proposed regulation that would add new language to pesticide labels. Current pesticide labels include the statement, “Do not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift.” The EPA’s Draft Pesticide Registration Notice of Nov. 4, 2009, would add new language to pesticide labels stating, “In addition, do not apply this product in a manner that results in spray (or dust) drift that could cause an adverse effect to people or any other non-target organism or site.”
“EPA should maintain FIFRA’s risk-based standard of ‘no unreasonable adverse effects’ and remove the vague, unenforceable, and unmanageable concepts of ‘could cause’ or ‘may cause’ adverse effects or ‘harm’ from the Drift Pesticide Registration Notice,” Dodson said. “The agency should also continue to acknowledge that some small level of pesticide drift is unavoidable in many common application situations, and does not pose an unreasonable adverse effect.”
A final key topic discussed was the pesticide re-registration and review process carried out by EPA.
“ASA and the agricultural industry strongly believe that the process must be governed by sound science, including science-based assessments and decisions,” said Dodson. “Additionally, there must be certainty that once a science-based review is completed, another review won’t be arbitrarily initiated. Farmers and the crop protection industry need increased confidence and certainty that the re-registration process and decision-making will be based on peer-reviewed science.”