Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sens. Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kansas), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan to redirect the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs away from their current propensity for overly cautious blanket bans and severe restrictions of necessary crop protection tools back towards a regular, risk-based regulatory process.
The EPA under President Trump and now President Biden has made several decisions that the senators argue will adversely impact agriculture:
In November EPA issued new Biological Evaluations for glyphosate, atrazine, and simazine that the senators said inflate the number of species and habitats found likely to be adversely affected. Industry grower groups have sought to provide EPA with better, real-world data sources, including in comments on the draft biological evaluations (BE) — comments that the senators said the EPA opted not to incorporate into the final BE. The final BE for glyphosate also assumes growers reapply chemistry seven days after an initial application. This is an unrealistic assumption for any producer and increases model exposure risks for species.
EPA is legally obligated to engage on formal consultations with Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service every time it finds a pesticide is likely to affect a species. When EPA uses assumptions in its BE that find more than 90% of species are affected, the agency is creating a high workload while having few resources to manage the work effectively, the senators maintained in their letter.
In December, EPA issued an unrequired report tallying up the “increased number of drift complaints” of dicamba from last growing season. EPA has said publicly that there have been nearly 3,500 off-target movement inquiries on dicamba from states. However, the senators said that numerous state regulatory agencies dispute EPA’s drift complaints and report close to half the amount. Without meaningful use of over-the-top dicamba for the 2022 growing season, hundreds of thousands of farmers would likely be deprived of seed or herbicide during spring planting, which would be devastating for the agricultural economy, the senators wrote.
In September 2020, after several years of evaluation in the Registration Review, EPA approved and published the final Interim Registration Review Decision (IRRD) for the triazine herbicides. In its decision, EPA approved and published a revised CELOC (concentration-equivalent level of concern) used to determine potential risk to aquatic plant communities at 15 ppb. Shortly after the IRRD was published, activist groups filed a petition in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals alleging that EPA violated its duties under FIFRA when it approved the Interim Registration Review Decisions for atrazine, simazine and propazine. In 2021, in an unprecedented move, EPA, in a motion in the court case, announced its intention to go back after the final decision was published and reevaluate that 15 ppb number which would create confusion about product use and monitoring if the agency changes the number.
Full text of the letter can be found at https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_marshall_braun_ernst_to_epa_-_pesticide_program.pdf