Friday, December 23, 2016

Farm Bureau, states ask EPA to delay new rule aimed at protecting farm workers from pesticides

The nation's biggest farm lobby and state agriculture departments are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to delay a new safety rule for farm workers, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, for a year "because EPA has not told states how to implement it," Stephen Davies reports for Agri-Pulse.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture claim EPA violated the law by not delivering “enforcement guidance, educational materials, and training resources necessary to effectively implement the rule changes and assist the regulated community with compliance activities.”

"One specific sticking point is the 'designated representative' provision in the November 2015 Worker Protection Standard (WPS) rule, Davies reports. "That provision would allow farm workers to choose a person - a member of a nonprofit group, for example - to request pesticide hazard and application information, which must be accessible to workers or handlers of pesticides." Farm groups have been critical of the provision, saying it could compromise "confidential business information.'"

AFBF and NASDA also note that the provision was not in a "draft final" rule submitted to Congress in May 2015, which EPA acknowledged, and say the requirements for application exclusion zones, which “must be free of all persons other than appropriately trained and equipped handlers during pesticide applications,” are unclear. "The Association of American Pesticide Control Officials had asked EPA in August to consider delaying the effective date" of the rule and let states allow allow workers housed in an exclusion zone to “shelter in place” instead of leaving the area, "as the rule would appear to require," Davies reports.

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