Tag Archives: EPA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency will allow farmers to resume broad use of a pesticide over objections from beekeepers, citing private chemical industry studies that the agency says show the product does only lower-level harm to bees and wildlife.

Friday’s EPA announcement — coming after the agriculture industry accused the agency of unduly favoring honeybees — makes sulfoxaflor the latest bug- and weed-killer allowed by the Trump administration despite lawsuits alleging environmental or human harm. The pesticide is made by Corteva Agriscience, a spinoff created last month out of the DowDuPont merger and restructuring.

Honeybees pollinate billions of dollars of food crops annually in the United States, but agriculture and other land uses that cut into their supply of pollen, as well as pesticides, parasites and other threats, have them on a sharp decline. The University of Maryland said U.S. beekeepers lost 38 percent of their bee colonies last winter alone, the highest one-winter loss in the 13-year history of their survey.

Emails and other records obtained from the EPA through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the Sierra Club, and provided to The Associated Press, show sorghum growers in particular had pressed senior officials at the agency for a return to broad use of sulfoxaflor.

Sorghum growers regard honeybees as just another “non-native livestock” in the United States, lobbyist Joe Bischoff said in one 2017 email to agency officials, and by cutting threats to the bees, “EPA has chosen that form of agriculture over all others.”

A federal appeals court had ordered the EPA to withdraw approval for sulfoxaflor in 2015, ruling in a lawsuit brought by U.S. beekeeping groups that not enough was known about what it did to bees.

EPA Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn said Friday that new industry studies that have not been made public show a low level of harm to bees and other creatures beyond the targeted crop pests.

Dunn said EPA’s newly reset rules for use of sulfoxaflor, such as generally prohibiting spraying of fruit and nut-bearing plants in bloom, when pollinators would be attracted to the flowers, would limit harm to bees. She called it “an important and highly effective tool for growers.”

Michele Colopy, program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, one of the beekeeping groups that had successfully sued to block sulfoxaflor, said the EPA limits weren’t enough to protect bees and other beneficial bugs whose numbers are declining.

“We understand farmers want to have every tool in their toolbox,” when it comes to curbing insects that damage crops. “But the … pesticides are just decimating beneficial insects,” Colopy said.

An environmental group charged the EPA with sidestepping the usual public review in reapproving broader use of the pesticide.

“The Trump EPA’s reckless approval… without any public process is a terrible blow to imperiled pollinators,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced without fanfare on July 1 that it would stop collecting quarterly data on honeybee colonies, citing budget restrictions. Beekeepers and others used the data to track losses and growth in U.S. honeybee colonies.

Other Trump administration decisions have upheld market use of the weed-killing glyphosate, which is now the target of thousands of consumer lawsuits over alleged harm to people exposed to it, and shelved an Obama-era decision to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos as a threat to human health.

On July 5, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the proposed Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rule for 2020. The National Corn Growers Association said, once again EPA has failed to account for lost volumes due to refinery exemptions and uphold the President’s commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“We are frustrated the EPA did not account for potential waived gallons going forward in the proposed rule,” said National Corn Growers Association President and Nebraska farmer Lynn Chrisp. “If the EPA continues to grant retroactive waivers, the RVO numbers are meaningless and the EPA is not following the law. Farmers are facing a very tough economic environment and the continued waiver abuse chips away at farmers’ bottom line.”

Since early 2018, the EPA has granted 53 RFS exemptions totaling 2.61 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuel. There are currently 38 pending petitions for 2018.

EPA also failed to uphold the D.C. Circuit Court’s 2017 ruling, requiring the Agency to account for 500 million gallons it improperly waived in 2016. “There is no reason for the EPA to not account for those gallons,” Chrisp added. “It appears the EPA continues to favor big oil and not uphold the RFS. This narrative is getting old. It is time for the EPA to follow the law to ensure the waivers do not destroy volume requirements.”

NCGA thanks Secretary Perdue and his team at USDA for their continued support and work on this issue. Secretary Perdue has been instrumental in making sure the voice of the American corn farmer is heard.

Today’s announcement of EPA’s final 2020 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rule under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a positive step only if EPA chooses not to grant additional RFS exemptions to refiners according to Kansas Corn leaders. The RFS provides market access for renewable fuels like ethanol.

 

The RVO sets the volume of renewable fuels required by the RFS for the coming year. While the ethanol levels are in accordance with the Renewable Fuel Standard, KCGA remains concerned about potential refinery exemptions.

 

“EPA did what it was supposed to do with the RVO and we appreciate that,” Kansas Corn CEO Greg Krissek said. “However, the ethanol industry continues suffer from uncertainty because of the pending requests from oil refiners to be exempted from the RFS. One bright spot is USDA and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue’s continued support for biofuels and reaching out to EPA on the waiver review process.”

 

Kansas Corn Commission Chairman Dennis McNinch, who farms in west central Kansas, said the commission is continuing its work to build infrastructure to make blends like E15 available to consumers in more locations across the state and the nation.

 

“We are working to build demand and build an infrastructure to offer higher blends of ethanol, like E15, which benefits consumers, retailers and the environment. But we have serious concerns about the market impacts of pending waiver requests from oil refiners who don’t want to comply with the RFS,” McNinch said.

 

While EPA has completed a rule that allows year-round sales of E15 fuel, and in the RVO rule, has followed the RFS law in setting renewable fuel levels, uncertainty remains for corn and ethanol producers.

 

“As usual, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop,” McNinch said. “We have been urging the Trump administration, and EPA to deny another round refinery waivers. EPA has granted an unprecedented amount of refinery waivers in the last few years that have sent shock waves through the ethanol industry. Honestly, we cannot handle any more government-generated demand loss for our product.”

 

As EPA implements this volume rule, and considers pending petitions for RFS exemptions, Kansas Corn urges the agency to prevent further demand destruction and support a strong RFS that will benefit America’s farmers and rural communities, provide cleaner air and boost our nation’s energy security.

 

The Kansas Corn Growers Association represents its grower members in legislative and regulatory issues and promotes corn and corn products. The Kansas Corn Commission invests grower checkoff dollars in the areas of market development, education, research and promotion.