CropLife America (CLA) strongly supports rigorous worker protection standards for applicators of pesticide products and looks forward to reviewing and providing comments on proposed changes to the agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Feb. 20. CLA hopes to continue its collaboration with the Agency and other stakeholders in developing regulations that fully protect the health and safety of America’s farmworkers, practically support farming operations and align with the scientific standards of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

As the federal statute regulating the crop protection industry, FIFRA mandates that crop protection products undergo years of rigorous testing and risk assessments to determine their potential impacts on human health and the environment before being registered for use. EPA further ensures responsible product use through strict labeling measures, developed as a result of these risk assessments, which dictate where a product can be applied; where and how it can be stored; restrictions for use; and other information on proper use. This process helps ensure that applicators use crop protection products responsibly with no unreasonable adverse effects. Registrants of crop protection products also support training programs for workers that improve compliance with requirements established by EPA, among a wide array of stewardship initiatives.

“The health and safety of America’s farmworkers is paramount to the crop protection industry, and we have strived for decades to continuously improve the technology surrounding product formulation and application,” noted Jay Vroom, CLA’s president and CEO. “We look forward to providing comments to EPA on the proposed changes to the Worker Protection Standard and ensuring that any final regulation is representative of the ongoing, science-based advancements in our industry.”

Vroom observed that much work is ahead in revising the WPS. He said, “EPA has highlighted that their new proposal calls for changes that will require significant resources from farmers, including variable buffers on some fields; mandatory ‘no entry’ signs on field perimeters; and mandatory recordkeeping, among other provisions. CLA will work with farmer organizations to analyze these proposals and comment on whether or not they are feasible and can make significant improvements in worker protection compared to other innovative alternatives.”

The CLA president also expressed concern with the proposal’s “background justifications,” and commented, “While CLA fully supports updating this rule to improve worker protection, we do have concerns about some of the ‘suppositions’ in the proposal’s preamble language, which relies on only part of the epidemiological information available in the public domain, and seems at present to accept a broad and very liberal range of estimates of theoretical harm, as well as supposed under-reporting of worker exposure incidents. CLA will be providing extensive comment on those specific provisions of the proposal.”

To learn more about CLA’s position on the WPS, visit http://www.croplifeamerica.org/pesticide-issues/worker-protection