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.

By Carla N. Hutton

On September 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeking input from stakeholders about how to update its organic regulations on inert ingredients in pesticides used in organic production. 87 Fed. Reg. 54173. AMS seeks comments on alternatives to its existing regulations that would align with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory framework for inert ingredients. According to the ANPR, information from public comments would inform AMS’s approach to this topic, including any proposed revisions of the USDA organic regulations. Comments are due November 1, 2022.

According to AMS, the ANPR seeks input from stakeholders about how to rectify the USDA organic regulations’ references to outdated EPA policy on inert ingredients used in pesticide products. AMS states that the outdated references are inconsistent with current EPA requirements and that this causes problems in the organic industry and for AMS’s administration of the USDA organic regulations.

AMS notes that inert ingredients, also identified as “other ingredients” on pesticide labels, are substances other than the “active” (i.e., pesticidal) ingredients included in formulated pesticide products. Inert ingredients may function as adjuvants, solvents, diluents, stabilizers, or preservatives. AMS states that pesticide labels do not typically disclose the identity (common or chemical name) of the inert ingredients in the product.

For organic crop and livestock production, current USDA organic regulations allow EPA List 3 and List 4 inert ingredients to be used in pesticide products when the product includes active ingredients permitted by the organic regulations. According to AMS, together, EPA List 3 and List 4 include more than 2,700 inert ingredients. AMS states that it does not know how many of these inert ingredients are included in products used in organic production, “but it is likely a relatively small subset of these 2,700 ingredients.” Because the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) mandated that EPA develop tolerances (or tolerance exemptions) for inert ingredients used in food-contact products, new and existing inert ingredients are approved for use through EPA’s rulemaking process. As a result, EPA no longer updates the EPA lists referenced in the USDA organic regulations.

Commentary

AMS’s National Organic Program (NOP) seeks comments that will assist in assessing the feasibility of alternatives that could replace the references to the outdated EPA lists. Information submitted in response to the ANPR will inform AMS’s approach to this topic, including any proposed revisions of the USDA organic regulations. AMS seeks comments to identify alternatives, as well as to receive information about obstacles and the costs and benefits of options. According to AMS, stakeholders that may be affected by future actions on this topic include pesticide manufacturers, certified organic operations, consumers, certifying agents, and other interested parties.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On February 12, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in El Comite Para El Bienestar De Earlimart v. EPA, a case challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of provisions in a State Implementation Plan (SIP) adopted by California under the Clean Air Act (CAA) that regulate emissions of pesticides (primarily fumigants like methyl bromide) that potentially may contribute to possible exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone. The El Comite case is the latest action in a series of challenges to California’s regulation of emissions of pesticides considered to be volatile organic compounds (VOC) stretching back to 2004. The case will consider substantive issues pertaining to the enforceability of the limits on pesticide VOC emissions in the SIP and the adequacy of those limits to attain compliance with the NAAQS. Of significant interest, it will also include a novel argument that EPA’s conclusion under CAA Section 7410(a)(2)(E) that the SIP did not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act is unsupported by the record.

The Plaintiffs will confront a stiff burden in litigating their Civil Rights claim. The Supreme Court has held that Title VI is violated only when actions have a discriminatory impact and such discrimination is intentional. EPA contends that California gave sufficient assurances that the pesticide controls in the SIP do not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and that it was reasonable for EPA to rely on those assurances when it approved the SIP. The Plaintiffs point to a preliminary finding made in 2011 by the EPA Office of Civil Rights (OCR) concerning the Angelina C. complaint, where OCR determined that emissions of methyl bromide during the years 1995-2001 had a disparate impact on Latino school children. This preliminary finding was later withdrawn following a settlement with California. The Plaintiffs say that given this history, EPA should have required California to provide a more detailed explanation of why its current regulation of pesticide emissions is not violative of Title VI. The Plaintiffs recently attempted to bolster their Title VI argument by asking the Court to take judicial notice of a report on pesticide use near schools issued by the California Environmental Health Tracking program in 2014, but EPA has opposed consideration of this report because it was not part of the administrative record when EPA approved the SIP revisions in 2012.