On Monday, Jack Housenger from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pesticide Re-evaluation Division visited a Visalia citrus grove to hear first-hand why chlorpyrifos continues to be an important crop protection tool for citrus growers. Housenger was accompanied by Caleb Hawkins from the Biological and Economic Analysis Division and Garland Waleko from EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Accompanying the EPA group were the Tulare County Commissioner and representatives from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, including the Director Brian Leahy.
During the grove tour, CCM Chairman and vice president of the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee (CPDPC) Kevin Severns was accompanied by CPDPC Chair Nick Hill and CPCPC member Bob Felts, along with Beth Grafton-Cardwell and CCM Vice President Bob Blakely.
EPA proposed cancelling all chlorpyrifos tolerances in December and is now evaluating comments to determine if the proposed decision should be revised before it is finalized. Housenger was interested in whether citrus growers had alternatives to chlorpyrifos and why chlorpyrifos is still important in citrus production. He heard directly from the growers why the issue is not about alternatives, but about having a variety of tools to prevent resistance, reducing the number of passes through the grove, and the ability to use the most effective products. Chlorpyrifos is one of the few materials left that can knock down a heavy red scale population or that is broad spectrum enough to control multiple pests. Severns stressed the importance of controlling red scale to maintain export markets and being able to use crop protection tools with established MRLs. Dr. Grafton-Cardwell gave a good summation of the challenges growers face when controlling pests on a crop that may be on the tree for over a year.
EPA’s proposal to cancel all tolerances is in response to a court ruling with a December 2016 deadline for a final decision. EPA has asked the court for an extension until this time next year. The court has not responded.