Spray Drift: Comments Raise Concerns

In the March 2010 issue of CropLife® (“Coming To A Head,” March 2010), we discussed the status of EPA’s Pesticide Drift Labeling Notice (PR Notice 2009-X), which was issued on Nov. 4, 2009. EPA issued PR Notice 2009-X to advance its goal of establishing clear and concise labeling statements that would ultimately lead to reduced off-target pesticide drift.

EPA requested public comment on this notice and the time for submitting comments closed on March 5, 2010. An analysis of the comments submitted to EPA by the industry demonstrates that the regulated community has significant concerns with the most recent proposed drift labeling language.

The crop protection industry supports EPA’s general objective of reducing off-target pesticide drift while promoting consistency and clarity among pesticide labels, but the best path to getting there has been a point of debate.

The quest for comprehensive drift labeling actually dates back to 2001. EPA issued Draft Pesticide Registration No­tice 2001-X: Spray and Dust Drift Label Statements for Pesticide Products (“PR Notice 2001-X”) to provide comprehensive guidance for pesticide drift labeling, with a focus on proposed changes to generic pesticide drift label language statements.

Many stakeholders submitted comments on a variety of aspects concerning PR Notice 2001-X. Ultimately, after EPA’s review of the public comments, draft PR Notice 2001-X was not finalized.

The issue was revisited with the development of PR Notice 2009-X, which took into account the public comments it received on draft PR Notice 2001-X. Once again, EPA requested and received numerous public comments urging it to either revise or withdraw the proposed labeling changes.

A review of the comments published to date indicate that industry stakeholders have substantial concerns about PR Notice 2009-X — specifically that it abandons the statutory language of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Ro­denticide Act (FIFRA), creates an unachievable zero drift policy, does not provide for any real risk assessment, and does not provide registrants with adequate time to implement the proposed label changes.

Undermining FIFRA

Many stakeholders are concerned that use of the proposed terms “could cause” or “may cause” deviate from the statutory standards set forth under FIFRA. Under FIFRA, the appropriate standard by which to evaluate pesticides is whether the pesticide causes an “unreasonable adverse effect.” FIFRA defines an unreasonable adverse effect as “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.”

By not using a risk-based approach to evaluate pesticides, EPA appears to be abandoning the “unreasonableness” aspect of potential drift effects. PR Notice 2009-X fails to account for the “economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits” of the use of pesticides. This proposed shift from “unreasonable adverse effects” to “could cause” adverse effects is problematic. The mere detection of the active ingredient of a pesticide at de minimis levels does not necessarily create any risk of an adverse event, or even indicate that the pesticides were misapplied.

Zero Drift Policy

FIFRA authorizes EPA to register pesticide products by engaging in a risk-benefit analysis for each pesticide submitted for registration. This analysis helps EPA determine, among other things, whether the pesticide label is appropriate. If, based on its risk assessment, EPA determines that the applicant-proposed labeling does not prevent unreasonable adverse effects from use of the pesticide, it may suggest revisions to the labeling.

EPA previously recognized that technology and methodology helping to prevent pesticide drift was continually improving, and that while responsible applicators try to control drift, “there will always exist controllable and uncontrollable factors which lead to drift, potential exposures, and risks of harm. The factors that contribute to drift are unique to each application and depend on weather, the application site, application equipment, and applicator behavior.”

The issue, according to stakeholders, is not whether a pesticide drifts — some level of drift will almost always occur. It is whether the drift presents “unreasonable adverse effects.” Under PR Notice 2009-X, EPA would apparently no longer engage in this type of FIFRA-mandated risk analysis. Instead, PR Notice 2009-X essentially sets up a “zero drift, zero exposure policy.”

In a letter to EPA, Rep. Collin C. Peter­son (D-MN), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ag­riculture, effectively captures this concern by stating that the current language “if left intact, would represent an extraordinary shift to a zero tolerance risk standard for off-target spray drift.” Such a shift is inconsistent with the risk standard established by FIFRA, he says. A “policy based entirely on exposure or the mere presence of a pesticide at any level is technically unachievable and inconsistent with EPA’s FIFRA mandate.”

Under a “zero drift” policy, a violation of the pesticide label would apparently occur whenever any drift contacts a non-target organism or site. Such a policy could cripple the ability of applicators to apply pesticides. The problematic nature of a zero drift policy was previously discussed by EPA when it acknowledged that “some de minimis level of drift would occur from most or all applications as a result of the uses of pesticides.” This is now truer than ever as technological advances allow for the detection of pesticides at extremely low rates, a fact that PR Notice 2009-X does not adequately take into account.

Time To Implement Changes

If EPA opts to not make any changes to PR Notice 2009-X and it is finalized as written, product labeling in compliance with PR Notice 2009-X must be submitted with the registration materials for any product not yet registered with EPA. Under the rules, registrants of existing products will have between six and 12 months to submit new general drift labeling statements to EPA.

Many stakeholders believe that this amount of time is insufficient and have requested a minimum of 24 months to comply with the requirements of PR Notice 2009-X. It is generally believed that two years is a more reasonable amount of time to review current labels and implement any newly required language.

EPA is again proposing revisions to the required pesticide drift language used on pesticide products. And once again, the public comments submitted by the agricultural industry illustrate some very real concerns. Specifically, stakeholders are concerned that the proposed language sets an unachievable standard, inconsistent with FIFRA’s risk-benefit approach, which may ultimately result in unwarranted litigation against growers, applicators, homeowners, and other regulated individuals. Whether EPA will heed these legitimate concerns is yet to be seen.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Legislation Stories

LegislationUSDA: Quick Implementation Of Disaster Assistance Programs A ‘Top Priority’
July 9, 2014
USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between Oct. 2011 and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More
LegislationTFI Praises White House For Signing WRRDA Into Law
June 11, 2014
The bill streamlines U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, prioritizes authorized waterway improvements and provides needed adjustments to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Read More
LegislationAg Policy: Plenty Of Fertilizer Issues Ahead
January 2, 2014
From West Fertilizer to the Chesapeake Bay, fertilizer producers and dealers are keeping an eye on several Beltway developments in 2014. Read More
LegislationLack Of Farm Bill Leaves Farmers Facing Uncertainty In 2014
December 13, 2013
With just a few legislative working days remaining in 2013, the likelihood of a new farm bill is waning, leaving farmers in limbo once again. Read More

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More