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

FertilizerTFI Weighs In On Fertilizer Rail Transport Bill
May 14, 2015
With today’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as a backdrop, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) registered its support for policies Read More
LegislationGov. Kasich Signs Ohio Bill For Lake Erie Water Quality
April 2, 2015
Gov. John Kasich has signed a bill aimed at protecting Lake Erie and Ohio’s water quality, reports editorial staff at Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Crop Protection Bulk Storage
LegislationARA: Chemical Security, Biotech Labeling Among Key Issues In 2015
February 12, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association is hopeful Beltway gridlock will lessen in 2015, allowing some key agricultural initiatives to gain legislative ground. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Feed Division Facilities Receive Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification
July 13, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Feed Division, a marketer and distributor of value-added feed ingredients for the aquaculture, livestock and pet food industries Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Expands To Brazil With Acquisition
July 8, 2015
BRANDT has acquired a majority interest in Target Brasil Fertilizantes Ltda. through its Brazilian subsidiary. Target Brasil manufactures, distributes and Read More
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
FungicidesReport: Sudden Death Syndrome Symptoms Appearing In Soy…
July 30, 2015
Last week, symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS) began to appear in April 15-planted soybeans at the University of Illinois’s Read More
Seed/BiotechAdvanta Seeds Adds New Phoenix Corn Hybrids
July 30, 2015
Corn growers in the High Plains and Western states have new options available for the 2016 growing season from Advanta Read More
ManagementTechnology and agriculture: a Futurist’s Perspective
July 30, 2015
Futurist David Zach, speaking at this week’s InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, shared thoughts on the benefits and limitations of Read More
Biofuels Plant in Lousiana
Industry NewsIdle Biofuels Plant In Louisiana To Reopen As Ammonia F…
July 30, 2015
A Lithuania-based company plans to spend $265 million to reopen an idle biofuels refinery in Grant Parish as an ammonia Read More
FFA at Monsanto Booth at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
Industry NewsFive Students Receive The 2015 Monty’s Plant Food Compa…
July 29, 2015
This fall, five college-bound students will have financial support through the Monty’s Plant Food Company FFA Scholarship. All five scholarship Read More
GYPSOIL Blendable Pellets
Crop InputsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches Pelletized Gypsum …
July 29, 2015
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) announced this week at Ag Media Summit that its GYPSOIL Pelletized Products Division will open a Read More
StewardshipOhio Water Quality Project To Determine How Much Phosph…
July 27, 2015
Researchers with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University are looking for farmers in Read More
FertilizerKoch Agronomic Services Launches N-TEGRATION Technology
July 27, 2015
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC (KAS) has launched  N-TEGRATION Technology, a process technology platform designed to enable production of enhanced efficiency fertilizers at Read More
HerbicidesExpert: IARC Herbicide Classifications Leading To Confu…
July 24, 2015
Few people in the crop protection industry had heard of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) before this Read More
ManagementFCI Trade Summit Update & Precision Tank Turns 50
July 23, 2015
Editors Dave Frabotta and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the upcoming FCI Trade Summit in Las Vegas, NV, and how Precision Tank Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesUSDA Deregulates Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Cotton Trait
July 23, 2015
The USDA today issued its decision deregulating Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist cotton trait in the U.S. The USDA has now completed its Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Showcases Versatile Product Por…
July 23, 2015
Technology has revolutionized agriculture by bringing farmers, retailers and distributors to the forefront of the digital age. To meet the Read More
FertilizerWSJ: Cf Industries Exploring Merger With Dutch Chemical…
July 23, 2015
U.S. fertilizer maker CF Industries is in advanced merger talks with Amsterdam-listed chemical company OCI NV, the Wall Street Journal Read More
HerbicidesNufarm Releases New Panther SC Herbicide
July 23, 2015
Nufarm has announced the availability of new Panther SC herbicide. Panther SC is the first liquid formulation of flumioxazin available Read More
EquipmentFarmLink Launches Farm Equipment Sharing Program
July 23, 2015
FarmLink has introduced a new online farm equipment sharing community – MachineryLink Sharing – leveraging this new economy business model Read More
HerbicidesCould The South’s Most Troublesome Weed Represent A Thr…
July 22, 2015
Palmer amaranth is undoubtedly the most troublesome weed in the southern United States, taking a devastating toll on both cotton Read More
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Hires New Director Of International Sales
July 22, 2015
Global Agriculture firm H.J. Baker announced today that Steve Langley has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division and Animal Health Read More