The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has disclosed its roadmap for protecting endangered species from pesticide exposure. Assistant Administrator Michal Freedhoff outlined the EPA’s strategies during a speech to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Freedhoff emphasized the EPA’s commitment to harmonizing endangered species protection with agricultural needs, stating, “Protecting endangered species and ensuring we have a safe and abundant food supply can go hand in hand.” She highlighted the importance of balancing agricultural flexibility with ecological conservation.
Historically, the EPA has faced challenges in aligning pesticide registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act with the mandates of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This discrepancy has led to legal disputes, uncertainties for farmers, and delays in species protection.
To address these concerns, the EPA introduced its ESA Workplan in April 2022, outlining strategies to integrate species protections into pesticide regulations while maintaining accessibility for pesticide users. Initiatives such as the Vulnerable Species Pilot project were proposed, aiming to shield species particularly vulnerable to pesticides.
However, stakeholders raised apprehensions regarding the feasibility of these strategies. In response, the EPA has announced plans to refine its approaches, expand collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and enhance stakeholder engagement. The EPA will enhance species mapping accuracy to better pinpoint areas requiring pesticide protections. By partnering with federal agencies and academic institutions, EPA aims to develop precise habitat maps, ensuring targeted conservation efforts.
The EPA has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), recognizing the role of voluntary conservation practices in pesticide management. This collaboration aims to integrate NRCS practices into pesticide labels, offering growers additional compliance options. Looking ahead, the EPA also plans to introduce online mitigation measures to streamline pesticide label updates and explore offsetting mechanisms for situations where pesticide avoidance is impractical.
Ag News Director / AgNet West