States Continue To Decide The Fate Of Chlorpyrifos

Written by Matt Eich, president of NAICC and crop consultant at Centrol. 

California agriculture has officially lost a major insecticide that has long been a tool to combat insects that plague fields. On May 8, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his administration planned to ban chlorpyrifos. On Oct. 10, it was announced that California and Corteva Agriscience reached a deal to halt the sale of chlorpyrifos on Feb. 6, 2020. Producers can continue to use remaining supplies until Dec. 31, 2020. After that, chlorpyrifos use in California is banned. 

Chlorpyrifos History
Chlorpyrifos was first registered as an insecticide in 1965. Since then, many restrictions have been placed on its use with a series of actions by EPA starting in 2000. (click here for a timeline of EPA's actions on the pesticide)

In November 2016, the Obama administration and the EPA moved forward with the evidence that a ban on chlorpyrifos was justified. Just four months later in March 2017, EPA head Scott Pruitt denied the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, which left chlorpyrifos on the market until the next registration review on Oct. 1, 2022.  

After that California has not been the only state to take action against the use of the pesticide. 

In February 2018, a bill was introduced in Hawaii to ban chlorpyrifos, and in June 2018, the bill was signed banning the insecticide’s use across the islands after Jan. 1, 2019. However, the bill gives businesses the ability to apply for a three-year extension to adjust to the new law. Later in April 2019, New York banned the use of chlorpyrifos in the state by Dec. 1, 2021. Oregon and Connecticut are currently exploring bans on using the insecticide in their respective states.  

Tools Needed
We need chlorpyrifos as a tool. Since 2015, the soybean aphid has shown resistance to some pyrethroid insecticides, namely bifenthrin and lambda-cyhalothrin, leaving just chlorpyrifos as an economically available solution for controlling soybean aphids. Sulfoxaflor (Transform) is an option, but it is not labeled for use in all states—including here in South Dakota—further proving our need to keep chlorpyrifos as an option.  

My Take On Regulations
Some regulations are needed. This I understand, and I agree with it. Take the restrictions placed on chlorpyrifos use from 2000 to 2012 due to safety as an example. To me, those were common-sense regulations that were needed to protect the general public. However, some of these regulations—though well-meaning and often made as “feel good” rules for the general public—unnecessarily restrict the use of the very pesticides we need. 

Why do we continue to let those who are not involved in our industry bully us around and tell us how to do our job.

As those with “Google University” degrees become keyboard warriors, we must fight back with our knowledge and experience. We must also follow best management practices and not spray a pesticide when one is not needed or when pest levels are below thresholds, as is the temptation when tank-mixing pesticides. We as consultants must lead by example and do the right thing. Otherwise, we will need to tolerate further unnecessary regulations or outright bans and lose the tools we need to take care of the pests that plague our crops that help to feed the world.