The nation’s state pesticide regulators are fighting back after EPA’s recent announcement that it is considering limiting states’ ability to place additional restrictions on federal pesticides.

Rose Kachadoorian, president of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO) and an Oregon pesticide regulator, and Leo Reed, an Indiana pesticide regulator, penned a letter urging EPA to leave this state right untouched. Barbara Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), also sent a letter to EPA, asking the agency to consult with state regulators before making any decision.

“AAPCO takes this issue very seriously, and strongly supports a state’s right to grant a Section 24(c) pesticide registration to reduce risk,” Kachadoorian and Reed wrote.

At issue is an announcement made by EPA in late March that the agency is “reevaluating” how it handles additional restrictions placed on federal pesticides via a section of pesticide law known as 24(c). This section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was crafted to allow states to expand or supplement the use of a federally labeled pesticide according to individual state needs. However, states have occasionally used it to restrict a pesticide’s use instead. Most recently, a number of states have used 24(c) labels to add restrictions to the new dicamba formulations XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan, out of concern over widespread off-target dicamba movement and injury over the past two years.

For example, after fielding a combined 576 complaints about dicamba injury in 2017 and 2018, Illinois regulators opted to grant a 24(c) label for the three dicamba herbicides in 2019, which mandates a cutoff date of June 30, among other restrictions.

“We now have two years of data showing how dicamba has the potential to drift off target,” John Sullivan, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said in an announcement of Illinois’s new 24(c) label. “It’s obvious measures need to be put in place so farmers can continue to effectively use these products, while also protecting surrounding property and crops.”

EPA appears to disagree, stating that: “Due to the fact that section 24(a) allows states to regulate the use of any federally registered pesticide, and the fact that some states have instead used 24(c) to implement cutoff dates (and/or impose other restrictions), EPA is now re-evaluating its approach to reviewing 24(c) requests and the circumstances under which it will exercise its authority to disapprove those requests.” See the DTN story on EPA’s announcement here:…

Without this use of 24(c), states will be unable to move quickly to limit pesticide use to protect workers or their environment, Kachadoorian and Reed warned EPA in the AAPCO letter. Enacting state laws regarding an individual pesticide can take years, during which damage from a pesticide could continue unabated, she noted. In particular, the frequent revision of the new dicamba herbicide labels have made it hard for states to make permanent changes to their use.

“With [dicamba] labels changing annually and a short two-year registration period of the dicamba containing products, SLAs [state lead agencies] have not been able to consistently identify the mitigation measures needed beyond the [federal] label,” the state regulators wrote. “Utilizing the Sec. 24(c) process allows SLAs to be nimble, timely, practical and appropriately responsive.”

The EPA itself has benefited from states’ use of 24(c) to limit dicamba use, the state regulators noted. In 2017 and 2018, several states issued specific restrictions on dicamba that have since been adopted by the EPA and added to the federal dicamba labels released in November 2018. For example, some states banned dicamba applications when winds surpassed 10 mph — a restriction now codified on the federal dicamba labels.

The AAPCO letter also noted that ending state 24(c) label restrictions could actually threaten the availability of dicamba herbicides for farmers. “In order to maintain the technology to control herbicide resistant weeds, it has been necessary for states with unique or special local conditions to have the option to grant Sec. 24(c) registrations,” the state regulators wrote. “These registrations allow for adequate weed control to occur, but also mitigate potential risks.”

A change to state use of 24(c) would affect all pesticides — not just dicamba, Kachadoorian and Reed added. “The EPA policy of not disapproving more restrictive Sec. 24(c) registrations has been in place for nearly 30 years,” they pointed out. “The current process has allowed SLAs to continue the use of various pesticides, within their individual jurisdictions, with additional safeguards.”

So far, EPA has not opened up a Federal Register docket on its pending 24(c) decision and invited public comment, as normally occurs with regulatory policy changes. States are free to enforce their 2019 24(c) labels on dicamba and other pesticides — for now.

Glenn ended her letter from NASDA to EPA with a warning: “We hope EPA recognizes that states are not stakeholders but co-regulatory partners under FIFRA and, therefore, must be consulted on any FIFRA regulatory or policy initiative.”

Source: Emily Unglesbee, DTN