The power struggle over blaming pesticides and specifically the neonicotinoid class as the reason pollinator populations have been in a recession continues to escalate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has come forward against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed prohibition of 76 pesticide ingredients being sprayed when honeybee hives are brought to farms under pollinator contracts.

The EPA proposal has not been enacted and requires a cost-benefit analysis before it could be implemented.

An excerpt from a letter sent by Sheryl Kunickis, director USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy, has been disseminated. She wrote in a late August letter that the USDA encourages the EPA “to consider the negative economic impacts this proposal may have on numerous specialty crop farmers and the rural economies they contribute to across the U.S. should it be implemented in its current form.”

The main concern is the strict inflexibility in dealing with pesticide use and a lack of data confirming bee deaths from pesticides use according to labels.

There reportedly were nearly 1,500 comments submitted related to EPA’s proposed rule, and many of them have come from supporters of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case where the recent ruling was that EPA was in error for not requiring extensive field studies for unconditional registration of the active ingredient sulfoxaflor. Those bringing the suit against sulfoxaflor’s registration and other chemicals in the neonicotinoid pesticide class are extremely vocal in blaming pesticides for almost all  local declines in honeybee and pollinator populations when they occur.

The 9th Circuit Court has a record of being perhaps the most liberal appeals court in the country and has been positive to environmental groups’ side of challenges to regulations and government agencies, as well as industry.

Dow AgroSciences is the maker of sulfoxaflor, and it has announced it is working with the EPA to fill any voids the court ruled existed in not doing “Tier 2” registration studies. As noted by Tiffany Stecker, an E&E reporter, “The judicial panel vacated the unconditional registration of sulfoxaflor, finding that the agency based its decision on limited and flawed data in the Tier 2 studies—field studies that are conducted when a chemical is shown to negatively affect pollinators in Tier 1, or laboratory tests.”

Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice, who argued the case on behalf of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, expressed satisfaction that the judges jumped into what was basically a “technical scientific dispute.” The Earthjustice group has claimed being supported by an outrageously large number of beekeepers and beekeeper associations, but this isn’t completely truthful as many in the beekeeping industry are willing to work with the pesticide industry outside of court to develop solutions to pollinator deaths and research all the causes, most of them not related to pesticides.

Does the recent court ruling push the EPA to proceed with a heavy-handed approach to limit the use of pesticides around contracted beekeeping operations? This appears to be a reasonable question today.