Proposed new EPA pesticide rules are toxic, say Georgia agriculture leaders

| September 5, 2014

4720_highresATLANTA — Georgia agricultural leaders say a proposal by the EPA to implement a lot of new rules for handling pesticides could be toxic to the state’s farms.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the new regulations in February, saying they are “expected to lead to an overall reduction in incidents of unsafe pesticide exposure and to improve the occupational health of the nation’s agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.”

The proposed rules include increased mandatory training, no-entry buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields, a first-time-ever minimum age requirement (children under 16 would be prohibited from handling pesticides, with an exemption for family farms), and measures to improve states’ ability to enforce compliance including requiring employers to keep additional records. Read more about them here.

But some Georgia agriculture leaders think the new rules would be anything but helpful.

“We are concerned the proposed Worker Protection Standard (WPS) update will have a detrimental impact on farmers without any real benefit to anyone,” wrote Zippy Duvall, president of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, in comments to the EPA. “This proposal will impose additional legal burdens on farmers, increase workplace obligations, expose growers to third party lawsuits, and increase costs with no proven beneficial effects.” The federation is Georgia’s largest general farm organization, with more than 320,000 members.

In an Aug. 18 letter to the EPA, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black wrote that after reviewing the proposed rules, his department “finds very little sense to be made of the proposal.” The reports and studies on which the proposals are based are sometimes more than a decade old, and don’t reflect improvements made by the agricultural industry, he noted.

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