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Republicans urge EPA to rethink chlorpyrifos cancellation

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This week, Missouri’s congressional Republicans sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking them to rescind their ruling that cancels the use of chlorpyrifos for the 2022 growing season. The group wrote that eliminating chlorpyrifos increases burdens on farmers already taxed by record inflation, increased input costs, and supply chain issues. 

Chlorpyrifos has been a topic of hot debate in recent years as the agencies try to decide how to handle the popular insecticide. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the EPA to decide “yay or nay” on the final chlorpyrifos regulation — the only options were to revoke or modify food tolerances. Despite science-based evidence presented to the EPA and USDA that probably should have led to a modification of the product’s allowed use, the administration canceled all food tolerances of chlorpyrifos.

Image by J.J. Gouin, Shuttestock

Chlorpyrifos is a chemical class of insecticides that has been in use since the 60s, treating pests on over 80 different crops. On soybeans alone, it helps to mitigate leaf beetle, soybean aphid, caterpillars, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, and others. The group cites in its letter that using chlorpyrifos in Missouri has prevented up to 40 percent yield losses for soybeans in the Midwest. 

The senators and representatives wrote, “This decision will put our great agricultural industry and those that depend on it in peril, especially in Missouri. For example, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri maintains a $93.7 billion agricultural industry, employs nearly 460,000 Missourians, and is home to 95,000 farms. It is the sixth greatest state producer of soybeans and cotton, producing a respective 290.5 million bushels and 684 thousand bales annually. According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Missouri exported as much as $1.4 billion in soybeans alone in recent years.”

»Related: Dow fires back at Associated Press on chlorpyrifos

The group requested a response from the EPA and USDA to the following questions by July 25, 2022:

  1. Did scientists at the USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy agree with EPA’s decision to cancel all food tolerances of chlorpyrifos in 2021 under the Federal Food and Cosmetic Act?
  2. What was USDA’s level of involvement in this decision?
  3. Was USDA briefed by the Department of Justice and EPA regarding EPA’s final rule canceling all food tolerances of chlorpyrifos, of which was the administration’s response to the April 29, 2021, directive by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit?
  4. EPA recently requested voluntary cancellations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act  from the registrants of chlorpyrifos. Voluntary cancellations occurred for all except the 11 uses that EPA deemed safe in its December 2020 Preliminary Interim Decision for Chlorpyrifos, including Missouri Soybeans, alfalfa and wheat. The registrant has requested EPA work on sublabels for said 100 uses.
    – Are your agencies working to approve these 11 sublabels.
    – If so, what is the expected timeline for approval?
  5. Will you prioritize a way for chlorpyrifos use this growing season, given the chemistry has few viable and cost-effective alternatives?
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