There’s a big issue coming down the pike that isn’t being talked about nearly enough. And that’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s herbicide strategy.
The herbicide strategy document is part of EPA’s policy proposals to satisfy its obligations for the Endangered Species Act. It was created due to multiple lawsuits that have been filed against EPA by environmental groups on the grounds that the agency violated the ESA by failing to carrying out actions pursuant to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act.
So, why is it Important to growers?
Our growers, and growers in general, heavily rely on crop protection tools to make their production more efficient and timelier, defend their crops against new weeds, and protect species and the environment. All of this is done in order to produce the best, low-cost food source for Americans in the most environmental-friendly way.
Overall the Strategy is incredibly complex and will be difficult for individual producers and applicators to even determine if lands are under regulation or what their compliance obligations will be. So for example, some of the issues that we NDGGA has with EPA’s Draft Herbicide Strategy include the spray drift buffers required by the proposal; because of the size called for in the document, enormous swaths of farmland will be left unprotected from damaging pests. The result will be that many farms and ranches will not be able to continue using herbicides in their operations and could lead to the loss of many farmers’ loss mitigation tools and would have detrimental economic impacts.
So in essence, it has the potential to change that producers farm.
We understand that the goal of the agency is to protect the environment, and obviously, our goal is to feed the world in an efficient and cost-effective way. These goals do not have to be mutually exclusive.
And so in NDGGA’s federal comments we pushed for more conversations and education with producers. Because it’s so complex, it will result in a lack of understanding amongst producers and could lead to issues with the strategy. An extensive, thorough education component will need to be created.
“Stakeholders need to be consulted throughout the development of policies like these,” NDGGA’s federal lobbyist Jim Callan wrote. “There needs to be more upfront conversations before the release of these strategies.”
And folks, this is just the beginning. After the herbicide strategy is completed, a pesticide and rodenticide strategy will be created.
The federal rule-making process has gotten out of control. Not only are many of these rules written in a vacuum and very little of the feedback is implemented from the commenting process, but Congress continues to be hesitant to overturn many of the rules that federal agencies create. The overturn WOTUS by the Supreme Court was one of the biggest wins we’ve seen against overzealous federal regulations in decades.
But, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. A Supreme Court case filed by fishermen in the northeast could be a game changer. According to the case and recent media coverage received by the plaintiffs, the argument centers around monitoring that is done on the health of fish by the federal government. Due to a recent change in federal rules, fisherman must now pay for those monitors that they are required to take on their fishing vessels, resulting in increased costs and less profit for the fisherman.
The ultimate question being asked in the case is this: “Should the federal government be allowed to continue to establish rules that are more stringent and impactful than the federal laws that they are created to clarify?
If the answer is yes, agencies will continue to operate as usual. But if the answer is no, it has the potential to change the way they operate in a big way.
So while environmental groups have long used the Endangered Species Act as a vehicle to sue the EPA into operating in a way that benefits their philosophy, agriculture may still win the war after many long battles.