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December 14, 2023

Environmental Protection Agency Revokes Chlorpyrifos Zero-Tolerance Policy 

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the EPA “failed to follow the law.” 

Farmers have been using chlorpyrifos (more commonly known as the former product Lorsban®) to protect their crops from pests since 1965. But in 2021, the EPA issued a ruling that effectively banned the pesticide from use. But in 2023, that decision was reversed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The science behind this ruling was brought into question by several major agricultural groups, including the American Soybean Association (ASA), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), and the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA).  

“The Environmental Protection Agency failed to follow the law when it revoked the use of chlorpyrifos,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. According to ARA CEO and President Daren Coppock, the EPA made this decision based on a ten-year-old epidemiology study that only showed correlation and did not provide raw data from its findings. 

A Brief Timeline of Regulatory Reform for Chlorpyrifos 

  • 2000: Chlorpyrifos registrants can voluntarily enter into agreements that discontinue chlorpyrifos use in most household products along with tomatoes, apples, and grapes. 
  • 2002: EPA revises safety measures to include buffer zones that protect water quality and wildlife, reduced application rates on various crops, and increased PPE use for farmworkers. 
  • 2007: A petition filed in September by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) aims to revoke all tolerances and cancel registrations for the pesticide chlorpyrifos
  • 2012: EPA lowers aerial application rates substantially and creates “no-spray” zones to protect schools, homes, and other sensitive areas from potential effects. 
  • 2015: EPA proposes a ban for chlorpyrifos use on food crops in response to the 2007 petition. 
  • 2017: Under a new administration, the EPA reverses course by denying the 2007 petition
  • 2020: Based on new findings, the EPA concludes that the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos remains unresolved and further evaluation of science is warranted. 
  • 2021: EPA releases its Final Tolerance Rule, revoking all tolerance for chlorpyrifos use on food production. 
  • 2022: EPA denies objections to zero tolerance rule and requests for a hearing, making the chlorpyrifos ban on food crops officially in effect on February 28, 2022. 
  • 2023: The ban on chlorpyrifos is found unconstitutional and the decision is reversed.  

Is Chlorpyrifos Legal Now? 

As of November 2023, the legal status of chlorpyrifos use is in a state of flux. A recent appeals court decision on chlorpyrifos prompted 51 senators and House members to urge the EPA to quickly implement the court’s decision, which vacated the EPA’s 2021 decision to revoke food tolerances for the insecticide. The lawmakers argue that, in line with the court’s ruling, farmers should have access to chlorpyrifos for the 2024 growing season. 

However, the EPA, as of the latest statement from EPA Office of Pesticide Programs Director Ed Messina, is still digesting the court’s decision. While guidance from the EPA is expected, currently all registration cancellations for chlorpyrifos remain in place. Messina noted that the court has yet to issue its mandate, which is a standard part of the process for appellate decisions. 

What the Chlorpyrifos Reversal Means for Farmers 

This decision is unlikely to affect the majority of farmers. Although chlorpyrifos has been used by farmers for decades, it has fallen from popular use. Several countries and states including the European Union, Canada, California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, and Oregon have already banned the pesticide. Because of the increasing number of regulations, many main manufacturers have stopped making chlorpyrifos products. 

However, the chlorpyrifos ban was particularly concerning for specialty crop growers who rely on the pesticide to protect asparagus, onions, turnips, cherries, and other crops against maggots. A reversal could spare them from trying to find alternatives in a market already flooded with high input costs.  

Stay Updated on Agriculture News and Legislation 

AgAmerica works with farmers every day. That’s why we make it our business to stay updated on the latest news that affects the industry and provide whitepapers and reports that deep dive into farm economics to help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your operation. Visit our insights page to download whitepapers, catch up on the latest news, explore blog articles, and more.  

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