• USA Rice’s Ward Sees EPA’s Pruitt as a Partner, Not an Opponent

    by Michael Klein | Mar 31, 2017
    CEO Ag Council and EPA Senior Staff
    COMM-USA Rice’s Ward Sees EPA’s Pruitt as a Partner, Not an Opponent2-170331.jpg

    WASHINGTON, DC – USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward met yesterday with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and thanked him for his early decisive action on the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and for his back to basics approach to science-based regulation.

    The Pruitt meeting occurred during a multi-day planning session of the CEO Agriculture Council that brings together leaders from all major agricultural organizations to coordinate alignment on core issues.  The group, that makes its members available to the government’s ag policymakers, also met with U.S. Department of Agriculture transition officials and with leaders from other major associations up and down the food supply chain.

    Administrator Pruitt told the group he sees his agency as pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-environment, and that he is firmly committed to work across agencies to solve complex problems.

    “All the CEO’s around the table enthusiastically welcomed Administrator Pruitt to the leadership of EPA,” Ward said.  “It was refreshing to be told we can work together to tackle important issues facing our industries and our nation as opposed to having an adversarial relationship from the get go.  The first few actions of the Trump Administration signal a real shift in process with outreach already happening between EPA and USDA which is something USA Rice has been encouraging for some time.  Administrator Pruitt’s approach to regulatory reform as a means to economic growth is certainly welcome by the rice industry.”

  • EPA Delays Compliance Date for New Pesticide Applicator Certification Rule

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 22, 2017
    EPA logo
    WASHINGTON, DC -- This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed the compliance deadline for the updated Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule from March 6 until May 22, 2017.  Among other things, the new rule has stricter competency standards for those applying restricted use pesticides and establishes a minimum age for certified applicators.

    EPA decided to delay the implementation in order to give new Agency officials time to review the rule and decide whether they want to pursue a more substantive review.  The notice was published in the Federal Register Monday and USA Rice will continue to monitor any changes EPA proposes to the rule.
  • Pruitt Through Committee Following Rule Suspension

    by Michael Klein | Feb 02, 2017
    Chairman John Barrasso
    Senator Barrasso

    WASHINGTON, DC - Following the strategy of other Senate committees, today Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) suspended rules requiring members of the minority party to be present to establish a quorum so his committee could advance the nomination of President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt now moves to the full Senate for a vote. A simple majority is all that is required there, however, no date for the vote has been set yet.

  • Amidst Senate Drama, Trump EPA Designee Remains in Limbo

    by Michael Klein | Feb 01, 2017
    Not yet
    WASHINGTON, DC - As decorum breaks down in the Capitol over President Trump's designees and nominees for cabinet, sub-cabinet posts, and now the Supreme Court, his pick for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, was once again, put on hold, by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during a hearing that was boycotted by Democrat Members of the Committee.

    Arkansas Senator John Boozman and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker attended the hearing and spoke in support of AG Pruitt's nomination and decried the Democrat boycott of the hearing. Without a minimum of two Members of the minority party present, Committees are unable to achieve a quorum to advance nominees to the full Senate. (Earlier today, the Senate Finance Committee waived those rules to pass out of Committee the nominations of Congressman Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary.)

    Two weeks ago, at a sometimes contentious hearing on his nomination, AG Pruitt was grilled by a bipartisan group of Senators on his views regarding climate change, ties to "Big Oil" and "Big Gas," ongoing lawsuits against the EPA, and what his agenda as Administrator would look like.

    Today, Committee Chairman Barrasso (R-WY) added that "Pruitt was required to answer more questions than any EPA Administrator nominee in recent history." In total, Pruitt responded to more than 1,200 questions during and after his hearing was initially held.

    Frank Lucas (R-OK), the former chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said, "Scott Pruitt is a terrific choice to restore common sense and rule of law to the Environmental Protection Agency.  [Pruitt] has stood up to Washington time after time to fight for the conservation of our country's natural resources while protecting the jobs and well-being of American families and workers.  I look forward to working with him on a number of issues to ensure science - not political agendas - guides our nation's environmental policy."

    Last month, USA Rice, along with a number of other agriculture and commodity trade associations and companies, signed a letter of support for Pruitt's confirmation as the EPA Administrator.  He is expected to be approved for the job by the Environment and Public Works Committee and the full Senate, though no schedule for either vote has been announced.
  • Agriculture Abuzz Over EPA Pollinator Efforts

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 19, 2017
    ​Rusty patch bumblebee
    WASHINGTON, DC -- On the heels of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing the Rusty Patch Bumblebee as an endangered species, EPA released several documents late last week on the risks to bees from pesticide use.  The first document is a non-binding policy statement outlining new recommended labeling statements for mitigation of acute risks to bees from pesticide products.  Pesticide registrants can voluntarily adopt the new labeling statements, but EPA cannot compel compliance.
    The other documents released include the preliminary bee risk assessments for the neonicotinoid products clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran.  The assessment lists rice as a crop that has low on-field risk to bees due to the fact that rice is self-pollinating.  Seed treatments are the primary vehicle for neonicotinoid use in rice, but EPA appears to have no risk data from rice seed treatments at this time.  Release of these documents was highly anticipated following a similar draft risk assessment for imidicloprid published in January 2016.  EPA plans to use the data from the final risk assessments in the registration review of these four neonicotinoid products.
    “Rice has few crop protection products to use against pests so it’s important to have as many tools in our pest management toolbox as possible,” said Ray Vester, Arkansas farmer and chairman of the USA Rice Regulatory Affairs and Food Safety Committee.  “These products are some of the last available options for producers to manage certain pests and we are hopeful that the low-risk status of rice will support our case to keep these crucial registrations for our industry.”
    USA Rice commented on the Draft Risk Assessment for the neonicotinoid imidicloprid in early 2016.  USA Rice staff is currently reviewing the pre-release copies of these risk assessments in order to draft comments on their effects for the rice industry.
  • Lawsuit Could Put an End to Treated Seeds

    by Michael Klein | May 04, 2016
    This doesn't look like a pesticide to us
    Rice Grains
    WASHINGTON, DC -- A disturbing lawsuit, Anderson et al. v. McCarthy et al, has been brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court by a number of commercial beekeepers, growers and environmental activist groups for not regulating seeds treated with systemic pesticides as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). These groups allege that dust from the coated seeds has harmed the environment, including honey bees and birds.

    EPA currently regulates the pesticides used as seed treatments.  A seed may not be treated with a pesticide unless EPA has specifically approved the pesticide for use as a seed treatment on that seed.

    However, seed is regulated by USDA and individual states.  Currently seed bag tags are clearly marked with the active ingredient used in the seed treatment. There are additional requirements for language on the seed tag for neonic-treated seed.  The treated article exemption for treated seed, which is referenced in the lawsuit, is a longstanding policy of EPA. An article is exempt from regulation under FIFRA by virtue of the treated article exemption if the following three conditions are met:

    • the article contains, or is treated with, a pesticide;
    • the pesticide is intended to protect the article itself; and,
    • the pesticide is registered for this use.

    Treated seeds meet all of these requirements
    and thus meet the definition of a treated article.

    “If rice seeds are registered as a pesticide it could put a heavy burden on growers because each planting will be considered a pesticide application,” said Dr. Steve Linscombe, Director of the LSU Ag Center.  “Each farmer could have to register as a pesticide applicator and meet the educational requirements.  In addition, the regulations could easily become overwhelming, basically giving control of planting decisions to EPA as each seed would need to be registered as a pesticide pursuant to FIFRA.  When you potentially incorporate this process into new, incoming regulations including the revised Worker Protection Standards, the Applicator Certification Rule, and WOTUS, you may be seeing the end of treated seeds.”

    While EPA acknowledged in its January 4, 2016 preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid that it posed a low-potential risk to bees when used as a seed treatment, EPA’s response to the lawsuit is unknown at this time.  USA Rice staff and members met with EPA earlier this year on this issue and USA Rice continues to be engaged on the issue and will encourage EPA to mount a vigorous defense against the lawsuit.

  • Rice States Must Begin Section 18 Emergency Exemption Requests for AV-1011

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 29, 2015
    Don't delay
    WASHINGTON, DC – Departments of agriculture in states with rice producers affected by bird consumption of rice seed need to begin applying for Section 18 Emergency Exemption Requests for AV-1011 (anthraquinone) bird repellent as soon as possible in order to have approvals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a timely fashion.  Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authorizes EPA to allow an unregistered use of a pesticide for a limited time if EPA determines that an emergency condition exists.

    The EPA will have extensive data requests on bird damage from previous years and commercial handlers will need time to treat seeds with AV-1011 before they are delivered to farms.

    USA Rice is working closely with all parties, including EPA, to facilitate the use of AV-1011 by rice growers.
  • Court Rules Nationwide Stay on WOTUS

    by Colleen Klem | Oct 09, 2015
    Stay, WOTUS, stay
    GA-Court Rules Nationwide Stay on WOTUS-151009 

    WASHINGTON, DC -- This morning, by a 2-1 vote, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule nationwide, until it determines whether it has jurisdiction over the petitions for review.  Despite the fact that the ruling is for jurisdictional issues, the majority also found a substantial possibility of success on the merits of the lawsuit in two areas:  the rule does not comport with the U.S Supreme Court's Rapanos's opinion; and, significant changes in the rule, specifically the numeric distance limitations, were never subjected to public notice and comment. Since the 'bright line' of distance limitations from tributaries was  never broached by the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers in the proposed rule a win for agriculture on this merit would allow the rice industry and other agricultural groups to weigh in on this controversial aspect of the rule.

    The decision immediately stays the rule nationwide although EPA has not yet responded publicly if they will adhere to the decision of the three judge panel.  If the agency ceases implementation and enforcement of the rule per the court's decision then the rule is stayed until other actions take place such as the decision being overturned by a higher court or the full court of appeals, or the jurisdiction question is settled and a court takes up the merits of the case.  

  • Final Worker Protection Standards Rule a Litany of Overreach

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 29, 2015
    EPA logo
    WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted a pre-publication version of the final Worker Protection Standards (WPS) yesterday and held a multi-agency press conference call to share details.  On the call, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated that the rule raised the age of non-family members applying agricultural pesticides from 16 to 18; moved training from every five years to annual; expanded training to include items such as how to not take pesticides home from work; required new recordkeeping to be held for two years; and required farms to follow OSHA standards for fit testing of masks and keeping of medical records.  

    McCarthy said the rule is allied with Environmental Justice concerns to protect minority farmworkers.

    According to McCarthy, these and other requirements will cost farm owners about $400 per year.  McCarthy then thanked federal partners the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who worked on the rule, and the Department of Justice which EPA will collaborate with in the future.  USA Rice submitted 10 pages of comments early in the process that focused on contradictory statements in the rule, issues of apparent privacy violations, a lack of understanding of rural areas, and availability of immediate healthcare facilities, and grossly understated costs of the rule to farm owners.

    In her only nod to public comments, McCarthy stated that pesticide warning signs were not being changed as proposed, thanks to comments from farmworker advocacy groups who liked the current signs.

    Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez echoed the work with EPA and other federal partners on “this law enforcement” issue, citing the need for a safe working environment, justice, and good housing for farm workers and stated that DOL will play an aggressive role in this process with the agricultural community.  He noted the rule also contains a robust anti-retaliation program that aligns with OSHA requirements.

    Perez handed the call off to Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers who cited their past work in protecting farm workers from pesticides and lauded the whistleblower protections in the new rule.

    The rule is not yet published in the Federal Register but will go into effect 60 days after publication.  Deadline for compliance with the rule will be sometime in the winter of 2016-17.  USA Rice staff will continue to analyze the rule for its impact on rice.

  • EPA Sets New Threshold for SPCC Rule

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 23, 2015
     EPA logo

    WASHINGTON, DC -- Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Emergency Management released the findings of a study to determine the aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity threshold for farms subject to the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC).  The EPA storage capacity report was a requirement of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.

    Without a national registration database of aboveground oil storage tanks on farms, EPA used anecdotal and other data to determine that the original 1,320 gallon capacity threshold was appropriate.  However, the WRRDA required a new threshold of between 2,500 gallons and 6,000 gallons.  EPA has opted for the minimum 2,500 gallon threshold as the new trigger for compliance under SPCC -- a move that EPA states will exempt more than 80 percent of farms in the United States.

    In response to the new WRRDA report, Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR) plans to reintroduce the Farmers Undertake Environmental Stewardship (FUELS) Act, which modifies EPA's SPCC regulations applicability on farms and raises the exemption level for a single container up to 10,000 gallons.

    A fact sheet on the WRRDA-compliant SPCC rule for farms can be found here.

  • IARC Classifies 2, 4-D as Possible Carcinogen

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 06, 2015

    LYON, FRANCE -- Last week the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed the pesticide 2,4-D as a "2B-possible" carcinogen.  The 2,4-D Research Task Force responded to the ranking, saying the IARC classification of 2,4-D as a possible carcinogen is at odds with comprehensive cancer reviews completed by health and safety regulators worldwide. 
    "No regulatory agency in the world considers 2,4-D to be a carcinogen," said Dr. Julie Goodman, an epidemiologist, board certified toxicologist, and consultant to the 2,4-D Research Task Force.  Dr. Goodman was an observer throughout the IARC meeting, which took place here June 2-9.
    Pesticide 2,4-D has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies and regulatory reviews.  Government regulatory agencies charged with protection of public health in more than 100 countries have evaluated the science and concluded that 2,4-D does not increase health risks when used as directed.  In fact, no government in the world considers it a carcinogen, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada, and the WHO (which oversees IARC).
    USA Rice is a member of the 2,4-D Task Force and has filed comments supporting the continued use of the product in rice.
  • WOTUS Revisited

    by Colleen Klem | May 27, 2015
    Adjacent? You tell us
    Adjacent? You tell us  
    WASHINGTON, D.C.--Late yesterday, USA Rice staff were invited to a meeting with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and others to discuss the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule (now titled the Clean Water Rule).  EPA disclosed that they intended to release a pre-Federal Register notice of the rule today.   Implementation of the rule will begin 60 days after it is officially published in the Federal Register, which is expected within the next month. 
    The agency staff stated that significant changes were made to the final version based on the more than one million public comments the agency received. EPA indicated that among the changes are the issues of upland ditches, the definition of tributaries, the extent of floodplains, and the confusion over how farms would be treated in "adjacent waters," among other things.  Agency staff specifically cited USA Rice comments in helping to better define an exemption for rice fields that was in the proposal but had some problematic language.
    USA Rice is encouraged by the agency's efforts to substantively change the document, but will be carefully reviewing and analyzing the final rule to provide guidance to the rice industry.  The pre-Federal Register version of the  final Clean Water Rule and various supporting documentation can be found here.

  • House Kills WOTUS

    by User Not Found | May 14, 2015
    Divining common sense
    Water Diviner
    WASHINGTON, DC -- On Tuesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1732, a bill sponsored by Rep. Shuster (R-PA) that would require the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their controversial Waters of the U.S. proposed rule (WOTUS). It is unsure yet when or if that particular bill will be taken up by the Senate because this bill is just one of several pieces of legislation that would restrict or repeal the reach of the proposed rule.

    “Without filibuster proof votes there is a high likelihood any legislation passed that restricts or repeals WOTUS will be vetoed by the President,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs. “The upcoming FY 2016 Appropriations Bills will be the best chance of limiting or temporarily de-funding the regulation with less risk of a Presidential veto.”

    The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have indicated that they still plan to release the final rule later this spring or early summer after making a number of revisions to the originally proposed WOTUS rule.