Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Plant Protection Priorities

The National Cotton Council monitored court cases/agency rulemaking and communicated on numerous regulations and actions that potentially could impede cotton producers’ access to essential tools that impact their profitability.

What are some major regulatory issues addressed in 2023?

gary adams, ncc
Gary Adams, NCC

Several priorities involved close interaction with EPA on regulatory matters. We worked with various interest groups and stakeholders to monitor any regulations or laws that could adversely impact cotton operations. The NCC, leading the Pesticide Policy Coalition, submitted comments to the EPA on its recent changes to the Endangered Species Act Workplan. The Workplan is an attempt by EPA to thoroughly consider endangered species in every pesticide registration/reregistration, aiming to reduce lawsuits against the agency concerning active ingredient use in pesticides. The NCC also joined a letter to the House and Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittees requesting adequate funding for EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service for their ongoing pesticide registration efforts. The letter cited delays and requested appropriations of $166 million for EPA pesticide registrations and $3 million for FWS consultations on endangered species related to these registrations.

The NCC continues to engage with EPA and other federal agencies in seeking reasonable regulations.

In terms of labor, the NCC provided input on EPA’s revision to its proposed rule on pesticide Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements. We also gave feedback on the Department of Labor’s newly introduced State Adverse Effect Wage Rates rule for the H-2A program, which faces regulatory challenges, including inflated wage stipulations, an increase in visa fees and new heat standards for farmworkers from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The NCC closely monitored the final “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. The NCC expressed concern that the EPA is exceeding its jurisdictional authority. The lack of public notice or opportunities for comments was another area of concern. The NCC’s main goal is to ensure a clear path for regulators and growers to protect this nation’s waters.

What about crop protection product support?

Efforts to safeguard crucial plant protection products included monitoring legal disputes related to the EPA’s registration of dicamba/sulfoxaflor. As for dicamba, the EPA sought to determine whether over-the-top applications presented “unreasonable risks” to other plants and crops. The agency approved label amendments that further limited the use of over-the-top dicamba in certain Midwestern states. Regarding sulfoxaflor, the NCC submitted feedback to the EPA on its registration. The NCC advocated for both aerial and ground applications of the product, describing it as a “critical alternate” mode of action to manage pests such as aphids and plant bugs.

Late in the year, after providing input to EPA on the registration of Enlist, the agency issued a BiOp. The BiOp determined that Enlist was unlikely to threaten any listed species, ensuring the continued availability of this crucial herbicide for 2024.

We will continue advocating for reasonable regulations that do not undermine our members’ competitiveness.


Gary Adams is president/CEO of the National Cotton Council of America.

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