EPA Announces Herbicide Strategy Revisions

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Regulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled updates to its Herbicide Strategy, aiming to strike a balance between helping farmers and safeguarding endangered species. This strategy, part of the agency’s efforts to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), underwent public review starting in July 2023. The goal is to determine where, how much, and what kind of actions are needed to shield listed species from conventional herbicides used in agriculture.

Herbicide Strategy

The revised strategy will reportedly not directly impose restrictions on pesticide use but will guide mitigation efforts for new herbicide registrations. The EPA received extensive feedback on the initial draft, particularly regarding its complexity and the need for clearer guidelines. In response, the agency plans to simplify the process. That includes moving from a detailed nine-point system to four tiers of mitigation, making it easier for farmers to understand.

Moreover, the EPA is enhancing flexibility for growers by expanding the range of mitigation measures, especially for specialty crops. This includes introducing practices such as erosion barriers and soil carbon amendments. The agency is also considering reducing mitigation requirements for farmers who already employ voluntary practices to minimize pesticide runoff or operate in areas with naturally low runoff potential.

Additionally, the EPA acknowledges the need for more precise mapping to determine where mitigation measures are necessary. Collaborating with stakeholders and other agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the EPA is refining maps to focus only on areas crucial for species conservation. This refinement could potentially reduce the land area subject to pesticide restrictions for many species.

Overall, the EPA’s aim is to make the Herbicide Strategy more farmer-friendly while ensuring the protection of endangered species. The agency continues to engage with stakeholders and expects to finalize the strategy by August 30.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West