It’s getting harder and harder to use pesticides in California …

Conditions for pesticide use in California, already considered by industry to have the toughest operating conditions in the US, have just got that much tighter with additional restrictions to come.

First off, chlorpyrifos (CPF).  On September 26, officials at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation announced a proposal for public comment that would reclassify all products containing chlorpyrifos and used in agriculture as restricted use.  Restricted use pesticides are approved by the EPA and CDPR and as well as permitted by the county agricultural commissioner (who can impose additional, more stringent permit conditions).  According to CDPR, this proposal would entail about 30 currently sold products used on many dozens of crops of significant importance to California agriculture, such as walnuts (which are solely produced in California and worth over a billion dollars in exports in 2012).

The additional restrictions imposed by California come on top of a series of EPA pesticide policy changes over almost 15 years that have significantly reduced agricultural dependence on this organophosphate insecticide.  In the past, as EPA was determining the reregistration eligibility of CPF, residential & termiticide uses were eliminated, application rates for certain uses were reduced, and no-spray buffers around surface water bodies.   More recently, EPA reduced aerial application rates and imposed buffer zones for ground and aerial applications around “sensitive sites” (generally, occupied buildings or parks, etc.).  Finally, EPA issued a preliminary volatilization assessment in 2013 in response to a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), which requested that the agency ban all remaining uses of CPF.

There are more changes to come, most likely.  The legal actions brought by NRCD and PANNA continue.  For example, the groups filed a renewed petition for writ of mandamus the EPA on September 10 in an attempt to force EPA to make a final determination on a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations.  The changes are also not restricted to active ingredients, but extend to certain pesticidal formulants as well.  CDPR recently announced that it would “likely not allow some pesticides that are high in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to be used in the San Joaquin Valley non-attainment area between May and October.”  The restrictions would be applied from May to October in both 2015 and 2016 and are needed in order to comply with the State Implementation Plan of the Clean Air Act (which specifies that DPR must publish an inventory of VOC emissions from pesticide use and achieve certain emission reductions). This spells yet more trouble for key California crops, such as tree nuts (almonds, walnuts), which are already prone to pest problems due to the continued drought.  Products that will be impacted could include abamectin (insecticide), CPF, gibberellins (plant growth regulator used in grapes) and oxyfluorfen (herbicide).

The proposal is out for public comment for 45 days, starting September 26. Find out more here.