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By Susan M. Kirsch and Barbara A. Christianson

On October 24, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is proposing narrow updates to the Worker Protection Standard’s (WPS) provision on the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements.  By narrowing updates to the WPS, EPA states that it will “improve the long-term success of the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone requirements” and “would improve enforceability for state regulators and reduce regulatory burdens for farmers.”  EPA believes narrowing updates to the WPS will also continue to protect the health of farm workers and other individuals near agricultural establishments who could be exposed to agricultural pesticide applications.  The proposed updates are consistent with the 2019 Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states that EPA’s proposal “would enhance the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone provisions by making them more effective and easier to implement.”  Wheeler states that “our proposal will make targeted updates, maintaining safety requirements to protect the health of those in farm country, while providing greater flexibility for farmers.”

EPA will hold a 90-day public comment period and seeks input on select updates that were publicly suggested to EPA by both state pesticide agencies responsible for enforcing the provision and agricultural stakeholders since the AEZ requirement was adopted in 2015.  The proposed updates are also consistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s comments during a May 2017 meeting of EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee.

Specifically, EPA is proposing to:

  • Modify the AEZ so it is applicable and enforceable only on a farm owner’s property, where a farm owner can lawfully exercise control over employees and bystanders who could fall within the AEZ.  As currently written, the off-farm aspect of this provision has proven very difficult for state regulators to enforce.  These proposed changes would enhance both enforcement and implementation of the AEZ for state regulators and farm owners, respectively.  Off-farm bystanders would still be protected from pesticide applications with the existing “do not contact” requirement that prohibits use in a manner that would contact unprotected individuals.
  • Exempt immediate family members of farm owners from all aspects of the AEZ requirement.  This will allow farm owners and their immediate family members to decide whether to stay in their homes or other enclosed structures on their property during certain pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining.
  • Add clarifying language that pesticide applications that are suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ may be resumed after those individuals have left the AEZ.
  • Simplify the criteria for deciding whether pesticide applications are subject to the 25- or 100-foot AEZ.

Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register will begin a 90-day comment period.  Comments are due on or before January 30, 2020.

When EPA included the AEZ concept in its 2015 WPS updates, of chief concern for pesticide applicators, farmers, and state departments of agriculture were the compliance and enforcement practicalities of aspects of the AEZ requirements.  For example, in scenarios where the AEZ extends to nearby roads and highways, it is difficult for pesticide applicators to be aware of every vehicle that may pass by that could enter the AEZ during applications.  It is unclear if the revised AEZ requirements adequately address these practical realities.  Agricultural stakeholders and pesticide applicators may wish to submit comments on the proposed revisions.

Additional information on the WPS is available on EPA's website.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell

On July 01, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice announcing the availability of and requesting public comment on a proposed guidance document called the Antimicrobial Pesticide Use Site Index (USI)

In 2014, EPA issued a final rule amending the regulations setting forth the data requirements that support an application to register a pesticide product.  The final rule contains the data requirements specifically applicable to antimicrobial pesticides, which were codified in 40 C.F.R. Part 158, subpart W.  The final rule lists 12 antimicrobial use patterns in 40 C.F.R. § 158.2201.  The data requirements applicable to a pesticide product depend in part on the product’s use pattern.  The general use patterns are broad designations and are used as columns in the antimicrobial data requirements tables to identify which data requirements might be pertinent to the particular pesticide use site.

EPA has developed the USI to assist antimicrobial pesticide applicants and registrants and EPA staff to identify the use pattern that applies to a pesticide product, and thus the data requirements that must be met to register the product.  EPA states that the USI serves as a compilation of the specific use sites that are commonly listed on antimicrobial labels and links these commonly listed use sites with the twelve general use patterns.  

The posting of this proposed guidance document for public comment is intended to satisfy a condition of the March 2, 2015, settlement agreement between EPA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) that followed ACC’s July 2013 initiation of a legal challenge to the data requirements regulation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Comments are due by July 31, 2015.