ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- On Monday, Feb. 28, EPA's de facto ban on chlorpyrifos use in food or feed crops formally went into effect.
The agency's newly finalized rule revokes food residue tolerances for the insecticide, meaning there is now no amount of chlorpyrifos residue on food or feed that would be considered safe. As a result, it's now illegal to spray any chlorpyrifos product on a crop intended for food or feed.
But the situation remains complicated, Seth Dibblee, an EPA environmental scientist, explained on a webinar hosted by the University of Minnesota on March 2.
At issue is the fact that chlorpyrifos insecticides have yet to be canceled by either EPA or their registrants, and some farmers and applicators still have these products in their sheds or barns. And because farmers could legally apply chlorpyrifos up until Feb. 28, there are commodities and food products currently headed into commercial channels containing chlorpyrifos residues that are now illegal.
Finally, there is a lawsuit pending in federal court, challenging both EPA's finalization of this rule and its dismissal of ag industry objections. Any judicial rulings on that case could change things moving forward.
But, for now, here's what farmers need to know:
1. DON'T USE THOSE CHLORPYRIFOS PRODUCTS -- AND STAY TUNED FOR DISPOSAL DIRECTIONS
Any chlorpyrifos insecticides you still have on hand are now illegal to apply to food or feed crops, Dibblee stressed. It is true that a lawsuit pending in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals could change that, but at the moment, the EPA's rule stands, and the agency seems confident it will remain in place. (See more on that lawsuit here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….)
Disposing of leftover chlorpyrifos products is a problem the agency is aware of and working to resolve, Dibblee added.
Farmers cannot use household hazardous waste disposal programs for chlorpyrifos, and it's not clear if all state departments of agriculture will be equipped to accept discards of this insecticide, either.
For example, North Dakota's ag commissioner, Doug Goehring, recently wrote to inform EPA that the state's pesticide disposal program does not have the resources or funding to accept large quantities of discard chlorpyrifos products and will not be doing so. See more here: https://www.nd.gov/….
Other state departments of agriculture, such as Minnesota's, may be able to take back chlorpyrifos products, but farmers will need to check first, Dibblee said. In the meantime, EPA is working with registrants to see if clearer disposal options can be developed.
"At this time, the options are being negotiated with registrants," he said. "We may see some registrants offering a take-back program, but those are being negotiated, and nothing is in place for now."
2. LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVE INSECT CONTROL AND WAIT FOR ANSWERS ON NON-FOOD CROP USES
The absence of chlorpyrifos insecticides will not affect all farmers equally, the University of Minnesota crop scientists on the webinar noted. Soybean and corn farmers will find a decent list of effective alternative insecticides. See some of them here: https://www.ndsu.edu/… and here: https://blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/….
For other growers, such as sugarbeet farmers or specialty crop producers, the loss will be a bigger problem. "In sugarbeets in particular, losing chlorpyrifos will be a big hit," said Ian MacRae, Extension entomologist at the University of Minnesota. Currently, North Dakota State University entomologists are working on a list of products that could work, and that will be available soon, he said.
For horticultural and other specialty crop producers, the University of California-Davis has a comprehensive list of chlorpyrifos alternatives: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/….
EPA is currently reviewing the registration of chlorpyrifos for non-food uses, such as mosquito control. But there isn't a clear guidance on how farmers should proceed with chlorpyrifos applications that are NOT directly applied to food or feed crops, such as spraying cover crops grown for seed production, or tree trunks in orchards, Dibblee conceded.
"It's not clear yet whether (these uses) would be allowed, and there is guidance under development," he said.
3. THERE IS A PHASEDOWN PLAN FOR CHLORPYRIFOS RESIDUES ON CROPS OR FOOD
Normally, when EPA decides to end use of a pesticide, the agency pulls the label and cancels the various uses of that pesticide. Then EPA waits until all the legally treated crops and food products make their way through the channels of commerce, with food residue tolerances still intact, before revoking those tolerances, Dibblee explained.
But in the case of chlorpyrifos, EPA's actions were driven by an order from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "Because of that court decision, the process went backwards," Dibblee said. EPA issued a rule canceling food tolerances and is only now starting the process to actually cancel the labels and food uses of chlorpyrifos products.
"It is possible that there are legally treated commodities that are still in commerce, that have what is now an illegal residue," Dibblee explained. "And that's a bind we normally like to avoid."
To address it, the FDA issued a guidance for growers or food processors who might find themselves with agricultural commodities or processed foods containing chlorpyrifos residues after Feb. 28.
Essentially, for the next six to 24 months (dubbed Stage 1), depending on your commodity, FDA will consider chlorpyrifos residues to be "the result of a lawful application." But after that commodity-specific time period has passed (into Stage 2), growers or processors will have to provide certification to FDA proving that chlorpyrifos residues found in their products are the result of applications that occurred legally before the Feb. 28, 2022, deadline.
FDA expects Stage 2 to wrap up around Aug. 28, 2026, "the last date that we anticipate that food made (from) lawfully treated commodities will remain in the channels of trade," the guidance stated.
You can see more details on the different commodities and their predicted Stage 1 and Stage 2 dates, as well as the full guidance from FDA, here: https://www.fda.gov/….
See an archived version of this webinar from the University of Minnesota here: https://extension.umn.edu/….
Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.email@example.com
Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee
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