Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.
On April 12, 2018, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) released the Committee’s draft Farm Bill reauthorization, the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2). The House Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill package on April 18, 2018, setting it up for a floor vote in the House. The 600-plus page draft legislation includes a number of provisions that will be of interest to pesticide registrants and the pesticide user community, including the following sections:
The full text of H.R. 2 and a section-by-section summary are available on the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill webpage along with several related fact sheets. The Agriculture Committee expects to mark-up the bill this week.
On April 10, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of a draft Science Policy document intended to reduce the use of animals in testing chemicals to evaluate whether they cause an allergic reaction, inflammation, or sensitization of the skin. According to EPA, the document, Draft Interim Science Policy: Use of Alternative Approaches for Skin Sensitization as a Replacement for Laboratory Animal Testing, “describes the science behind the non-animal alternatives that can now be used (in vitro, in silico, in chemico) to identify skin sensitization.” The draft Science Policy states that the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) will immediately begin to accept submissions of new approach methodologies (NAM) and defined approaches (DA) as described in the draft Science Policy. EPA notes that there are multiple domestic and international activities ongoing that will allow for refinement and expansion of this draft Science Policy to other DAs and additional NAMs and support global harmonization of DAs for skin sensitization. According to the draft Science Policy, OPP and OPPT “will continue to be active participants in these activities to ensure regulatory acceptance and will continue to support cross-sector collaborations that enhance animal welfare, and accelerate the implementation of NAMs.” Comments on the draft Science Policy document must be submitted to Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0093 by June 9, 2018.
The draft Science Policy is the result of national and international collaboration between the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, the National Toxicology Program’s Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing, and Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
On April 10, 2018, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) held a complimentary webinar, “FIFRA Hot Topics.” Co-hosted with Bloomberg BNA, the webinar featured Richard P. Keigwin, Jr., Director, Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Daniella Taveau, former International Trade Negotiator for EPA and now Regulatory and Global Trade Strategist, King & Spalding; and William L. Jordan, former senior toxics lawyer with EPA’s OPP and Office of General Counsel. The timely and fascinating conversation was augmented by B&C’s Senior Government Affairs Consultant, James V. Aidala, and moderated by Lisa M. Campbell, Partner, B&C. More information about the webinar, including instructions on downloading a recording and related materials, is available on our Regulatory Developments page.
On March 22, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Pesticide Registration Notice (PR Notice) 2018-1 issued by the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) entitled “Determination of Minor Use under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Section 2(ll)” (PR Notice 2018-1). Notice of Availability issued on March 21, 2018. 83 Fed. Reg. 12385. The PR Notice states that it “describes the revised approach to interpreting economic minor use based on the concept of the registration of a pesticide as an investment.” It “revises the method and criteria used by EPA for evaluating ‘sufficient economic incentive’ under FIFRA section 2(ll)(2),’” and it “also clarifies that minor use under FIFRA section 2(ll)(1) is based on acreage reported in the [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)] Census of Agriculture.”
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ll)(1) defines a minor use of a pesticide as a use on a crop grown on 300,000 acres or less in the United States. Section 2(ll)(2) of FIFRA defines a minor use of a pesticide as one that lacks sufficient economic incentive to seek or maintain a registration but has private or social value.
PR Notice 2018-1:
Previously, EPA’s interpretation of economic minor use in Section 2(ll)(2) was based on PR Notice 97-2. EPA states PR Notice 2018-1 supersedes PR Notice 97-2. EPA states that through PR Notice 2018-1, EPA “seeks to identify and encourage the registration of pesticides for minor uses to protect communities from harmful pests.” EPA states in PR Notice 2018-1 that “the existing methods for identifying an economic minor use in PRN 97-2 do not consider all relevant factors which could affect the incentives of a registrant to apply to register a minor use,” and that “use of the approach in PRN 97-2 to identify economic minor uses could prevent applicants from registering pesticides that would be beneficial to users and growers, thus limiting the availability of pesticides for certain use sites.” For this reason, “EPA revised the method to determine an economic minor use.”
PR Notice 2018-1 is significant because it can be applied to conventional pesticides, biopesticides, and antimicrobial pesticides to determine whether they meet the definition of minor use. The criteria in PR Notice 97-2 only applied to conventional pesticides.
EPA states the rationale for revising the PR Notice to consist of the following:
Additionally of note, EPA states in PR Notice 2018-1 that seeking minor use designation is not required as part of the pesticide registration process. It is an optional designation that an applicant can seek to obtain certain incentives associated with minor uses, such as:
More information on other PR Notices is available on our blog under key phrase Pesticide Registration Notice.
On February 22, 2018, the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento, issued a judgment granting petition for writ of mandate and declaratory and injunctive relief (Judgment) to suspend further chemical activities undertaken by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to control or eradicate pests under the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program (the Project) until CDFA has certified a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) that corrects violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) identified in the court’s ruling.
CDFA is charged with promoting and protecting the state’s agricultural industry, and preventing the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases, and noxious weeds. Cal. Food & Agr. Code §§ 4011 401.51 403. CDFA developed the Project to control targeted pests or pathogens, and includes activities such as pest rating (evaluation of a pest’s environmental, agricultural, and biological significance); identification, detection, and delimitation of new pest populations; pest management response (which may include eradication and/or control of new or existing pest populations); and prevention of the movement of pests into and within California.
The present case was brought after CDFA sought to comply with CEQA by preparing a single PEIR that provides a consolidated set of management practices rather than prepare Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) specific to particular pest management activities. Petitioners alleged that CDFA violated CEQA by certifying the PEIR for the Project and in related proceedings that CDFA violated CEQA by subsequently expanding the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program to allow increased use of certain pesticides (Merit 2F and Acelepyrn) for the treatment of Japanese beetles without adequate environmental review.
The numerous CEQA violations identified by the court are set forth in a Consolidated Ruling on Submitted Matters (Consolidated Ruling) issued January 8, 2018, and attached as Exhibit 1 to the Judgment. The Consolidated Ruling discusses the following topics:
The court found multiple, broad-based issues with the PEIR, including, for example, a decision that the PEIR violates CEQA “because it adopts an unlawful tiering strategy, granting the Department authority to implement a broad range of practices without evaluating the site-specific conditions to determine whether the environmental impacts were covered in the PEIR.” The Consolidated Ruling also discusses particular failures of the PEIR. Additionally, of potential interest is the court’s opinion with regard to whether the PEIR failed to disclose and analyze impacts on sensitive biological resources, which Petitioners argued was based on several grounds: (i) an assumption that spraying “generally” will not occur near sensitive resources and fails to analyze potential impacts from pesticide drift; (ii) a conclusion, without substantial evidence, that the Project will have less-than-significant impacts on sensitive species; (iii) a conclusion, without substantial evidence, that traps and lures will not have significant impacts on non-target species; (iv) the use of improper thresholds of significance for impacts to pollinators and organic farming; and (v) a failure to define, disclose, and analyze impacts on wetlands.
The court did not find issues with the PEIR as it related to CDFA’s spraying assumptions and CDFA’s determinations of potential impacts on sensitive species, pesticide drift, or organic farming. The court likewise rejected Petitioner’s other challenges to the PEIR’s analysis of biological impacts, including the PEIR's analysis of traps/lures and of the species evaluated in the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA).
The court did, however, agree with Petitioners that the PEIR improperly ignored potentially significant impacts to pollinators. The court stated that the PEIR considered impacts to pollinators significant only if (1) the pollinator species impacted were “special status,” or (2) the impacts would result in a secondary change in the physical environment (such as conversion of land from agricultural to non-agricultural use). The PEIR did not consider whether the Project might adversely impact non-special-status pollinators, despite acknowledging that “healthy pollinator populations are critical to protecting the environmental quality and agricultural resources of the state,” and that “Colony Collapse Disorder” and “pollinator decline” are “ongoing ... serious” problems. The court found that CDFA’s “‘voluntary’ actions to benefit pollinator species are not, by themselves, sufficient to justify the lack of analysis and enforceable mitigation measures for the potentially significant impacts to non-special-status pollinators.”
The immediate effect of this decision is the inability for CDFA to continue “chemical activities … to control or eradicate pests under the [Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management] Program except as authorized under CEQA independent of the PEIR.” Should this decision stand, registrants and stakeholders should be interested in whether and how CDFA modifies the PEIR to support its pest control and management activities.
On March 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its release of final guidance clarifying where first aid statements should appear on the label of pesticide products. EPA also posted a response to public comments. Links to the final guidance and to the response to public comments documents are below:
EPA states that it was prompted to develop this guidance when it learned “that there was a discrepancy in how the ‘location of first aid statement,’ per [40 C.F.R. Section 156.68(d)] is interpreted by EPA and those in the pesticide registrant community.” EPA notes that its review and approval of pesticide labeling is generally of a “master” label and thus does not always include a review of the location or placement of specific language on a label.
On December 7, 2016, EPA posted a memorandum for public comment entitled “EPA’s Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Location of the First Aid Statement and Clarification on Definition of Label ‘Panel’ per 40 CFR 156.68” to clarify the interpretation of the term “panel” in the context of 40 C.F.R. 156.68 and to clarify where first aid statements must appear on pesticide labels, based on their Toxicity Category.
In its final guidance, EPA states it “will continue to require that Toxicity Category I products have the first aid statements on the front panel except in cases where a variation has been approved.” Further, based on comments received and the wide reliance by the regulated community on the interpretation that “any panel” includes inside panels, EPA is changing its position from its 2016 memorandum and now “will not require Toxicity Category II and III products to bear the first aid statements on a visible front, back or side panel.”
EPA also listed three recommendations for registrants to consider when printing their container labels:
Registrants should review this guidance carefully, as this issue has been the subject of concern and controversy for a number of registrants.
EPA Issued Proposed Rule to Add Hazardous Waste Aerosol Cans to Universal Wastes Regulated under RCRA
On March 6, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule (pre-publication version available here) to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the category of universal wastes regulated under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations (Title 40 of the C.F.R., Part 273), entitled Increasing Recycling: Adding Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste Regulations. EPA cites as authority for this change Sections 2002(a), 3001, 3002, 3004, and 3006 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by RCRA, as amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Act (HSWA). EPA states the streamlined Universal Waste regulations are expected to:
As aerosol cans are “widely used for dispensing a broad range of products” including pesticides, the proposed rule may have implications for chemical companies that create and distribute pesticide products marketed in aerosol cans. Hazardous waste aerosol cans that contain pesticides are also subject to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements, including compliance with the instructions on the product label. Under 40 C.F.R. Section 156.78, a flammability label statement is required for pressurized pesticide product products that states “Do not puncture or incinerate container,” but EPA’s 2004 determination (that will be posted to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0463 on www.regulations.gov for this proposed rule) allows for the puncturing of cans. The proposed rule states:
Comments will be due 60 days after the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register.
On February 28, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of three Group B -- Antimicrobial Efficacy Test Guidelines, under Series 810, Product Performance Test Guidelines. The guidelines provide recommendations for the design and execution of laboratory studies to evaluate the effectiveness of antimicrobial pesticides against public health microbial pests. 83 Fed. Reg. 8666. The three final guidelines are:
EPA states these “test guidelines are part of a series of test guidelines established by the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) for use in testing pesticides and chemical substances. The test guidelines serve as a compendium of accepted scientific methodologies and protocols for testing that is intended to provide data to inform regulatory decisions.”
EPA issued draft guidelines in June 2015 and solicited comments. EPA states that some comments received on those draft guidelines have been incorporated into the final versions. EPA states that the revision “is more user friendly and clarifies topics such as confirmatory data, repeat testing, hard water formulation, wetness determination testing for towelettes, and internal toilet testing … [and] also includes information on supplemental testing policies such as lower certified limits, revision of the AOAC Use Dilution Method performance standards and clarified technical details for efficacy testing.”
Documents pertaining to the revision of the product performance guidelines, including public comment submissions, and the agency’s response to comments are available at www.regulations.gov, in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0276. More information on test guidelines is available on our blog.
Eastern District of California Rules on Motion to Enjoin Prop 65 Listing and Warning on Glyphosate Products
On February 26, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of California issued a memorandum and order on the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction (Order) to “enjoin the listing of glyphosate under Proposition 65 (Prop 65) and the application of its attendant warning requirement pending a final judgment in this case and set a schedule for expedited final resolution of the case.” The Order (1) grants plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the warning requirement of California Health & Safety Code § 25249.6 as to glyphosate; and (2) denies the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from listing glyphosate as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer under California Health & Safety Code § 25249.8. Specifically, the Order states: “pending final resolution of this action, defendants … are hereby ENJOINED from enforcing as against plaintiffs … California Health & Safety Code § 25249.6’s requirement that any person in the course of doing business provide a clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate.” Although this is only a preliminary injunction while the case continues further resolution, it is extremely significant that, for now, glyphosate will continue to be listed on California’s Prop 65 list as a “chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer,” but products containing glyphosate will not be required to comply with the warning requirement.
Plaintiffs’ memorandum supporting its motion for preliminary injunction states that Prop 65’s requirement for products containing glyphosate to include a warning that glyphosate is “known to the State of California to cause cancer” is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and, if allowed to go into effect, will cause Plaintiffs’ “reputational, competitive, and economic harms for which they cannot be compensated.” Plaintiffs state that the “legal merit of their First Amendment claim is indisputable and obvious on the face of the attached documents without any need for discovery, and thus the claim is appropriate for expedited judicial resolution.” California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the agency responsible for implementing Prop 65, listed glyphosate as a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer on July 7, 2017, and the attendant warning requirement would have taken effect on July 7, 2018.
In support of denying the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from listing glyphosate under Prop 65, the court states that plaintiffs “have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the listing of glyphosate violates the First Amendment, because the listing is government speech, not private speech … [and it] is only the upcoming July 2018 deadline for providing the [Prop 65] warning that compels private speech.” The court noted further that Plaintiffs “have not shown a likelihood of irreparable harm should the court fail to enjoin the listing of glyphosate, because any harm that plaintiffs might suffer is caused by the warning requirements of [Prop 65], rather than the listing itself.” Accordingly, the court denied a preliminary injunction based on plaintiffs’ claim that the glyphosate listing violates the First Amendment.
On the other hand, in support of granting the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the application of the attendant warning requirement, the court stated:
The court also stated that the required warnings are “false and misleading” and that plaintiffs “have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities and public interest favor an injunction, the court will grant plaintiffs’ request to enjoin [Prop 65]’s warning requirement for glyphosate.”
This case, while not the end of the story, is a very significant development both for glyphosate specifically and perhaps for Prop 65 warning requirements generally. Industry should follow this case closely given the implications for glyphosate and potentially other Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)-regulated pesticides and chemicals generally. Some in industry have long been concerned that Prop 65 warning requirements contradict conclusions supported by the data and reached by other agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This decision is a huge preliminary win for those with these concerns and, depending on the ultimate outcome of the case, could provide a precedent for additional challenges related to other substances. The potential reach of the case beyond glyphosate, however, will likely be dictated heavily by the facts of each case.
On February 15, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added resources to its website regarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements of the WPS. As of January 2, 2018, full compliance is required with all of the AEZ-related requirements in the WPS. The new EPA website resources include:
While many welcome EPA’s guidance on the many thorny issues presented by the WPS and AEZ requirements, some believe that in places, the newly issued guidance raises additional questions and leaves some significant questions unaddressed. Given the controversy over this rule, this new guidance should be reviewed closely.
More information on the WPS, including EPA’s December 2017 announcement of its intention to revise the AEZ and other WPS provisions, and current implementation deadlines can be found on our blog under key word WPS and key phrase Worker Protection Standard.
On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Amazon Services LLC (Amazon) entered into a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) whereby Amazon agreed to pay $1,215,700 in civil penalties for approximately four thousand alleged violations under Section 3 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for the distribution of unregistered pesticide products. Amazon neither admitted nor denied the specific factual allegations, which included:
Amazon also agreed to implement a supplemental environmental project (SEP) consisting of the development, deployment, and operation of a publicly available eLearning course, downloadable educational materials, and test on FIFRA requirements and associated regulations (eLearning Project). Although no monetary amount was specified for the implementation of the SEP, the eLearning Project will be a significant undertaking, as the materials will be available in three languages (English, Spanish, and Chinese) and Amazon will require all of its Amazon.com sellers to complete the eLeaming course and pass an associated test prior to allowing such Amazon.com sellers to sell products identified as pesticides. The only circumstance when this requirement will not apply to Amazon.com sellers is when a seller can “demonstrate that the seller's existing compliance program is sufficient to ensure products sold via Amazon.com comply with FIFRA.”
More information on FIFRA enforcement issues is available on our blog under key word enforcement.
On February 12, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has reached an agreement with Syngenta Seeds, LLC (Syngenta), a pesticide company in Hawaii, to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) at its farm in Kekaha, Kauai. The settlement includes two penalty components: a $400,000 Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) for worker protection standard (WPS) training; and $150,000 as a civil penalty.
The Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO), issued on February 7, 2018, states the parties are resolving alleged violations under FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(G) from the use of the registered restricted-use pesticide Lorsban Advanced on an agricultural establishment in Kekaha, Hawaii, “in manners inconsistent with its labeling by not complying with applicable Worker Protection Standard regulations.” Syngenta neither admitted nor denied the allegations but consented to the assessment of the civil penalty and to the other conditions in the CAFO.
EPA’s Press Release states that under the settlement, Syngenta “will spend $400,000 on eleven worker protection training sessions for growers in Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.” Specifically, the SEP states it “is intended to assist and provide compliance tools to small-scale growers of agricultural plants that face compliance challenges based on cultural, literacy, or language considerations, and/or geographic isolation.” Further, Syngenta will “also develop compliance kits for use at these trainings and for wider distribution in the agricultural community in English and four other languages commonly spoken by growers and farmworkers in the training locations -- Mandarin, Korean, Tagalog, and Ilocano.” These compliance kits will include the following practical resources, among others:
This CAFO and in particular the SEP will be interesting to monitor considering EPA’s recent WPS revisions that became effective on January 2, 2017, and the additional proposed revisions for which comments are expected to be solicited.
More information on FIFRA enforcement issues is available on our blog under key word enforcement. Information on Syngenta’s 2016 CAFO regarding label violations is available in our blog item Syngenta Settles with EPA on Alleged Label Violations.
EPA Announces ICR Submission of Unreasonable Adverse Effects Information under FIFRA Section 6(a)(2)
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is planning to submit an information collection request (ICR), “Submission of Unreasonable Adverse Effects Information under FIFRA Section 6(a)(2)” (EPA ICR No. 1204.13, OMB Control No. 2070-0039), to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act.
EPA states that information submitted under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(a)(2) “provides an important means of focusing EPA attention on key problem areas regarding the use of a particular pesticide.” EPA states that since the last ICR was approved, it is increasing by 71,778 hours the total estimated respondent burden compared with the ICR currently approved by OMB. This increased estimate is based in part on the number of Section 6(a)(2) submissions, which EPA expects to increase by 16 percent from 93,000 in the last ICR approval to approximately 108,000 for this ICR renewal. According to EPA, the increase is “due to EPA’s revised expectations regarding the number of incident reports that will be submitted to the Agency, which reflects historical information on the number of responses received.” EPA states this increase also is due to additional data requests under 40 C.F.R. Part 159, including:
Through EPA’s notice, it is soliciting public comments on the proposed ICR. EPA states that this is a proposed extension of the ICR, which is currently approved through September 30, 2018. Comments are due by April 9, 2018. EPA has posted supporting documents in the docket for this notice, EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0687, on www.regulations.gov:
On February 1, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is publishing new guidance that sets forth a tiered approach intended to help manufacturers and EPA determine when the number of field trials necessary to register seed treatment uses can be reduced.
In its memo and attached Seed-Treatment Focus Group (STFG) Guidance Document dated January 26, 2018, EPA states that its Health Effect Divison (HED) has received “multiple waiver requests for seed-treatment field-trial residue data and has reviewed multiple field-trial datasets that indicated that there was the potential to reduce the number of field trials required to support the registration of seed-treatment uses.” EPA states that to evaluate this hypothesis, the HED Chemistry Science Advisory Council (ChemSAC), in collaboration with the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), in accordance with the July 11, 2017, Joint Canada/United States Field Trial Requirements “performed a retrospective analysis of all seed-treatment residue data that have been submitted to EPA/PMRA and has developed a tiered approach for determining if current crop-specific field trial data requirements are required to support new seed-treatment uses, or if a reduction in the number of required field trials is appropriate.” EPA’s announcement states that “the analysis showed that the data required to support registration could be substantially reduced and still be protective of human health.”
EPA developed two decision trees detailing the process for determining the residue chemistry field trial data requirements for seed-treatment uses: one for potato seed-piece (PSP) treatments only and another one for all remaining crops. EPA states that this case study demonstrates that application of the guidance set forth in these decision trees can, for both manufacturers and the agency, “potentially save considerable resources in terms of conducting, submitting, and reviewing the studies while still obtaining the data necessary to support seed-treatment pesticide registrations.”
The outlined procedure and memo document will supersede EPA’s previous guidance issued on October 28, 1999, entitled “Classification of Seed Treatments as Food or Nonfood Uses.”
More information is available on EPA’s Determining the Number of Field Trials Required to Register Seed-Treatment Uses webpage.
This announcement of improved review procedures allows EPA to cite both greater coordination across national borders (working with Canada), and reduce unnecessary data requirements. This would fit with the current Administration’s emphasis on reducing regulatory burdens and fostering greater innovation in regulated arenas. It also might be seen as general “good government,” as it updates guidance which is now almost twenty years old. Since seed treatment technology and associated policy issues have both evolved over the years, such a review and revision would seem timely regardless of any larger political directive.
On January 31, 2018, Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced the establishment of an Interagency Working Group to Coordinate Endangered Species Act (ESA) Consultations for Pesticide Registrations and Registration Review. EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (the Services) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on the establishment of the working group. The stated purpose of the working group is that it “will provide recommendations to EPA, FWS, and NMFS leadership on improving the [ESA] consultation process for pesticide registration and registration review (‘pesticide consultation process’) and will ensure that the new process is recorded and formalized as appropriate.” The working group’s action plan includes the following:
Like others before them, the Trump Administration is embarking on a journey to address the problem of how to integrate ESA assessment and consultation requirements with the FIFRA registration process. This directive will help organize a senior level effort to coordinate activities of EPA and the Services and, like past efforts, at the senior management level there will likely be at least a recognition that something needs to be done to fashion a more efficient and predictable process. Currently ESA reviews add months and years to the registration review process and, to date, that process is followed by seemingly inevitable litigation challenging the EPA decision as not sufficient to meet ESA requirements.
The result has been an exhaustive, time and resource intensive initial set of “pilot” biological opinions, and a very long list of promised consultations resulting from past litigation cases. Currently, the workload already committed will be virtually unattainable for a number of years, and as EPA plans to have ESA assessments as part of the registration review process for older pesticides (as well as for future new product applications), the budget and staffing implications are staggering. Meantime, agricultural stakeholders, including pesticide manufacturers and grower groups who use pesticides, fear that the current process might result in the loss or delay in the introduction of needed pest control products.
This is the context for the current attempt to devise an integrated, more efficient process to have any realistic chance to fashion a process which meets the requirements of both statutes. We wish any and all participants good luck and constant senior political level involvement -- they will likely need much of it.
More information on ESA issues is available on our blog.