EPA extends comment period on herbicide proposal

⋅ BY JULIE TOMASCIK ⋅

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the comment period to Oct. 22 for its proposed herbicide strategy.

The agency released the proposal in late July and extended the comment period after several groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, requested more time to review the documents.

“The proposal was quite voluminous. There was really, in total, over 900 pages that comprised the strategy over several different documents,” John Walt Boatright, AFBF director of Government Affairs, said. “For us, in terms of an industry to be able to read and digest and craft responses, really was going to take too much time. So, that’s what led American Farm Bureau and other industry groups to formally ask for an extension.”

The proposed rule attempts to bring pesticide registration regulations into compliance with Endangered Species Act obligations. It’s designed to provide early mitigations that minimize impacts to over 900 listed species, according to EPA.

“That means anytime that they must consider, review or register a pesticide product, they must factor into the impacts of that product on endangered species and the critical habitats on which those species rely,” Boatwright said.

The proposed rule will impact farmers who use conventional herbicides, AFBF said.

EPA said the proposal focuses on agricultural crop uses in the lower 48 states, because hundreds of millions of pounds of herbicides are applied each year and hundreds of listed species in those states live in habitats adjacent to agricultural areas.

“The proposed mitigations in the strategy would address the most common ways that conventional agricultural herbicides impact these listed species,” EPA said in a statement.

AFBF, Texas Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations are encouraging farmers to submit comments.

“We’re encouraging our members and producers around the country to certainly be aware of the proposal, and what they’re planning, at least initially, to do in regard to pesticide applications and herbicide applications, and to be involved with their different industry organizations who may have a role in advocating for the best possible policy,” Boatwright said.

AFBF and Texas Farm Bureau also intend to submit comments on the proposal.

Once the draft strategy is finalized, EPA will implement the herbicide strategy to determine when mitigations are needed, as well as the level and geographical extent of those mitigations when registering and re-registering any herbicide with agricultural uses.

Comments on the herbicide proposal will be accepted through Oct. 22.

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