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Commodity groups discuss key environmental issues with Admin
27
Mar '10
National Cotton Council Chairman Eddie Smith said he was encouraged by discussion on production agriculture issues that he and leaders from five other U.S. commodity groups had with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Joining Smith meeting at EPA's headquarters in Washington, DC, were farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Sorghum Producers and the USA Rice Federation.

Much of the discussion focused on two areas – proposed language for spray drift regulations and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling [National Cotton Council vs. EPA] that held that agricultural pesticide applicators, state pest controllers and others who spray pesticides on or near water will no longer be exempted from having to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, even if they follow all label and application requirements. EPA estimates that the ruling will apply to some 5.6 million annual pesticide applications for 365,000 applicators. The court granted EPA a two-year stay until April 2011, to give it time to develop a permitting program. EPA is expected to propose a rule in April 2010, and finalize it in December 2010.

Smith said he was able to convey how important the NPDES issue is to cotton and its potential to adversely affect cotton producers, including imposing additional costs.

“We were reassured by EPA Administrator Jackson that wasn't EPA's intent and they were emphatic …. that it would be a very narrow permit process and that production agriculture probably would be exempt from this permitting,” Smith said. “She also was very open to discussion on the spray drift regulation proposal and the importance of that regulation's wording.”

Concerns were aired about EPA's proposed regulation that would add new language to pesticide labels. Current pesticide labels include the statement, “Do not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift.” The EPA's Draft Pesticide Registration Notice of Nov. 4, 2009, would add new language to pesticide labels stating, “In addition, do not apply this product in a manner that results in spray [or dust] drift that could cause an adverse effect to people or any other non-target organism or site.”

The groups also discussed the pesticide re-registration and review process carried out by EPA.

Smith said Secretary Vilsack conveyed his desire for USDA and EPA to have continued discussions with the commodity organizations through smaller working groups to focus on key environmental issues.

“It was a privilege to participate in this unprecedented meeting and I'm encouraged that there are plans for the Council and other major commodity groups to continue the dialogue with these two agencies on issues of critical concern to production agriculture,” Smith said.

National Cotton Council of America

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