The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently closed a comment period effective August 6, 2023 regarding the Vulnerable Species Pilot Program. According to the EPA, this pilot program features a “long-term approach to identify species that are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, create mitigations to protect them from exposure, and implement the protections across different types of pesticides (e.g., herbicides, insecticides, fungicides).”
This proposal seeks to protect 27 endangered species allegedly vulnerable to pesticides throughout the U.S. (see map). To accomplish this, the EPA would establish pesticide use limitation areas (PULAs) that generally align with significant areas of the species’ ranges and habitat. EPA is assuming these species and their habitats are likely to be jeopardized prior to conducting any risk assessment or effects determination. While pilot is focused on 27 species now, the EPA plans to extend this pilot to other species and other areas over the next couple of years. In most of these PULA a pesticide user would be entirely prohibited from applying all pesticides – unless you:
- Coordinate with your local Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officethree months ahead of any pesticide applications;
- Notably, for some species EPA only requires you to consult with FWS if you make applications aroundspecies habitat in the PULA, not throughout the entire PULA. However, as detailed in the comments, we think implementation will still result in a comprehensive coordination requirement for all PULAs despite the agency’s attempted distinction.
- For all but two species,you must adopt four conservation practices that will reduce pesticide runoff/erosion risks (no till, cover crops, filter strips, 40% application rate reduction, etc.);
- For many of the species (though not all), there are spray drift reduction requirements as well.
While we understand the proposal fulfills the EPA’s legal obligations, we believe this proposal trivializes California regulatory efforts on current invasive species practices, places significant liabilities as well as implementation directly at the discretion of farmers rather than the EPA along with its respective coregulators and complicates California’s regulatory environment overall.
CCM along with various agricultural organizations submitted comments in hopes of informing the EPA on this proposal’s serious impacts to farming. CCM staff will continue to monitor this issue and will be regularly updating the membership. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to Jacob@cacitrusmutual.com.
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