The issue of pesticide spray drift is expected to generate “a lot of discussion” between the Environmental Protection Agency and agricultural interests during 2006, says Jon Scholl, the agency's counselor for agricultural policy.

There will be “a lot of public meetings that will offer opportunities for everyone to be involved,” he told members of the Southern Crop Production Association at their annual conference at Orlando, Fla.

“This is a difficult issue for the agency,” said Scholl, advisor to the EPA administrator. There have been suggestions that drift issues should be addressed in the context of the rulemaking that's currently under way with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“That's not going to take place — primarily, I think, because the agency feels it's going to be a very challenging issue and that a lot of work needs to be done that doesn't fit very well within the timeframe of the CWA and FIFRA rulemaking.”

Rather, Scholl said, the EPA has formed a work group with a pesticide policy dialogue committee to “take a look at what kind of policies can be set that everyone can agree on, that will help provide guidance on how we address drift issues.”

Technological solutions will also be considered, he said, evaluating “what kind of technology exists now, and what do we know now that we haven't known before that will help guide us in dealing with very difficult drift issues.”

Another major issue for the EPA, Scholl said, is the Clean Water Act and how it relates to FIFRA.

“In the past, FIFRA has been pretty much the driver in the work that (the agchem industry does), and I think what the agency is trying to do is make sure clear signals are sent that FIFRA is the main body of law for regulating pesticides in the environment.”

There are a number of court challenges “surrounding the whole concept of the CWA and a wide range of issues,” he said.

The EPA has put forth statements of rulemaking recently, dealing specifically with the issues of pesticides sprayed on or over water, Scholl noted.

“One of the things included in that guidance — and I'm pretty sure it will be included in the final rule — is a very clear statement that's important to agriculture: that if you apply chemicals according to label instructions, the agency is not going to require an NPDES permit.

“We certainly want you to continue to put emphasis on FIFRA as the primary act that's going to drive pesticide regulations.”

The EPA has just issued field implementation guidance trying to help clarify the process by which information will be provided to producers and others as to how the Endangered Species Act comes into play in the application of chemicals.

Counterpart regulations were put in place over a year ago to address the consultation process, Scholl said. “When you're registering a chemical, whom do you consult with, and what kind of other acts like FIFRA come into play that need to be addressed in registering the product?”

There have been challenges to the counterpart regulations, he said, “but at this point it appears things are going very well in getting the regulatory act together. There seems to be a lot of activity on Capitol Hill on endangered species, with a number of bills introduced dealing with the role various agencies will play, what kind of interaction there will be in the registration process, and what kind of proof will be required to show there is no impact, or minimal impact, on endangered species.”

The agchem industry, Scholl said, “has made a concerted effort to get out front on the issue of pesticide container recycling.”

Rules on recycling are now being made final by the EPA, he noted, and probably will be done sometime in January.

“There has been a lot of discussion on how the issue of container recycling can be addressed, and I think the conclusion the agency has made is that, while there is considerable interest in trying to help deal with the issue to take advantage of the positive activities of the chemical industry, it's probably going to have to be done in a separate section of FIFRA's rulemaking.

“The activities of your industry have been very constructive and very proactive — everyone I've talked with in the agency has been very pleased with the positive stance you're taking.”


e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com