The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced two important actions that will help the agricultural sector protect crops from pests and weeds. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA is approving the use of 10 pesticide products on hemp in time for the 2020 growing season. Nine of these products are biopesticides and one is a conventional pesticide. EPA is also issuing a proposed interim decision on atrazine — a widely used herbicide. Both actions provide regulatory certainty and clarity on how these tools can be used safely while also helping to ensure a strong and vibrant agricultural market.
“With common-sense actions, we are protecting the health of our nation and ensuring that crops such as corn, sorghum, sugar cane and hemp can be protected against a broad spectrum of weeds and pests,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The EPA is committed to providing much needed certainty to farmers and ranchers across the country who rely on crop protection tools to ensure a global supply of products, while driving economic growth in agricultural communities across America.”
The first action EPA is announcing is the approval of ten pesticide applications for use on hemp, just in time to be used during the 2020 growing season. EPA wanted to ensure the agency acted on these applications quickly to give growers certainty for next spraying season in 2020 and to make timely purchasing decisions for next year. These approvals were made possible by the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp-derived products from Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act.
While EPA oversees pesticide registrations for hemp under FIFRA, other federal agencies are working to streamline their separate regulatory implementation processes for the newly legalized crop. The 2018 Farm Bill directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a regulatory oversight program for hemp. USDA has since proposed a rule for state-level hemp growing/management plans. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration also plays a role in regulating hemp products when they fall under their regulatory authority. EPA is committed to working with its federal partners and helping hemp growers obtain the tools needed to support and increase commercial production. The step the agency is taking recognizes that innovation in pesticide use is critical to the success of a strong and vibrant agricultural sector.
“We’ve learned a lot about hemp since the establishment of the pilot programs in 2014, and we’re continuing our progress to ensure hemp is treated just like every other legal commodity,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY).
“NASDA thanks the EPA for taking the first step to provide crop protection for U.S. hemp farmers. Collaboration will be key as we work to provide a full tool box of solutions, including biopesticides, to the emerging hemp industry,” said National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Dr. Barbara P. Glenn.
The second action EPA took was to propose new, stronger protections to reduce exposure to atrazine — the next step in the registration review process required under FIFRA. Atrazine is a widely used herbicide that controls a variety of grasses and broadleaf weeds. It is well-known and trusted by growers as one of the most effective herbicides. Atrazine is used on about 75 million acres annually and is most often applied to corn, sorghum, and sugarcane.
As part of this action, the agency is proposing a reduction to the maximum application rate for atrazine used on residential turf, and other updates to the label requirements, including mandatory spray drift control measures. EPA’s proposed decision is based on the 2016 draft ecological risk assessment and the 2018 human health draft risk assessment for atrazine. EPA is also proposing updates to the requirements for propazine and simazine, which are chemically related to atrazine. “We appreciate the EPA’s proposal to re-register atrazine,” said Missouri Corn Growers Association CEO and Triazine Network Chair Gary Marshall. “This product is tremendously important to farmers across the country, especially for weed control in conservation practices. From citrus to sorghum and corn to Christmas trees, farmers rely on the agency’s use of credible science to regulate the products that allow us to safely grow more with less for a hungry global population.”
In addition to the newest regulatory actions, EPA is continuing to build and enhance its relationship with the agricultural sector through the agency’s Smart Sectors program.