Restricted-Use Pesticides Targeted

EPA Proposal Sets Minimum Age, Re-Certification Requirement for Applicators

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced a new proposed rule for applicators of restricted-use pesticides. (Logo courtesy of EPA)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Restricted-use pesticides applicators would need to be at least 18 years old and would be required to be re-certified every three years under a proposed rule announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday.

Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said though only 5% of all pesticide products are considered to be restricted use, the proposed rule came about as a result of agency interaction with industry in identifying holes in the program created in 1974.

In addition, the proposed rule would promote interstate recognition of restricted-use application licenses. Jones said such recognition is needed for those application companies that conduct business in multiple states.

Restricted-use pesticides are not available for purchase by the general public, require special handling, and may be applied only by certified applicators or someone working under their direct supervision.

Most states have certification programs for both farmer and commercial applicators who apply such pesticides to commodity crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat. The proposed rule notes that training in such competency exams is inconsistent across the country, and calls for minimum, nationwide standards.

"States, however, may adopt additional requirements as long as they meet the minimum standards established by EPA," the rule said.

"Two areas of the rule related to assessing applicator competency lack specificity sufficient to ensure the minimum level of competency: Standards for exams and private applicator competency standards. The lack of specificity in the rule has resulted in states adopting differing standards, some of which do not match EPA's expectation regarding the minimum level of competency of a certified applicator."

"The guidance notes that EPA interprets any exam administered to gauge applicator competency as being a proctored, closed-book, written exam," EPA says in the rule. "EPA has become aware, however, that not all state certification programs reflect this interpretation; several states have certification processes that allow open-book, written exams for determining applicator competency. EPA is concerned that open-book exams allow a lower standard for the process of determining and assuring competency than intended when EPA established the requirement for exams in the regulation."

Currently, restricted-use applicators are allowed to acquire a license one time but are not required to have ongoing training.

"This will result in better-trained applicators," Jones said during a news conference.

EPA estimates the proposed rule would generate about $80.5 million in benefits from avoiding acute pesticide incidents. The rule is expected to cost about $47.2 million a year to implement.

About 490,000 private applicators will be affected by the rule at a total cost of about $19.5 million a year to comply. EPA estimates about 414,000 commercial applicators will be required to follow the regulation, at a cost of about $27.4 million a year.

In all, the proposed rule is estimated to have "no significant impact" on small businesses, the agency said. It may affect more than 800,000 small farms that use pesticides, according to EPA, "although about half are unlikely to apply restricted-use pesticides."

The proposed rule will be subject to a 90-day public comment period once it is posted to the federal register.

An age requirement for those applications was identified by the industry as a gap EPA is attempting to fill, he said. Currently, there are 35 states that require applicators to be 18 to make commercial applications. Jones said 21 states have the same age requirement for private applicators.

Restricted-use applications, for example, include field fumigations common in strawberries, aerial mosquito control, and for invasive species.

Jones said EPA is a couple of months away from finalizing another rule designed to protect farm workers from pesticides exposure. That rule and the proposed rule overlap on the age requirement, he said. The nearly final rule requires those applying general-use pesticides to be 16.

"We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment and protecting workers and their families," Jones said. "By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted-use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely."

Read the proposed rule here,…

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Todd Neeley