A bargain offered by agriculture industry groups to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve a dispute over new pesticide safety regulations for farmworkers was rebuffed by the agency.
The dispute centers on a provision of the regulations requiring farmers to turn over information on the pesticides they have used at the request of a third party representing one of their farm workers. The rules are part of EPA’s wider overhaul of its farmworker safety regulations, which the agency completed late last year and will enforce starting January 1, 2017.
The agriculture industry is firmly opposed to the third-party measure and is backing legislation attached to a House spending bill that would prevent EPA from implementing it.
Discussions on the issue were held between agriculture industry trade groups and EPA on Aug. 31. Two trade group representatives who attended the meeting told Bloomberg BNA that they offered the agency a quid pro quo: the industry would agree to drop its support for the legislation if EPA delays implementing the third-party provision for a year.
Paul Schlegel, director of environment and energy policy with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), attended the meeting. He said he told EPA regulators that “if you’d be willing to do this, I’ll give you a commitment that we can sit down and do something that accomplishes what you want to do and is still protective of farmworkers.”
EPA staffers from the pesticides office also attended the meeting, according to the two industry representatives. Aside from AFBF, the National Cotton Council, USA Rice and United Fresh were among the groups that sent representatives.
The proposal did not seem to sway the EPA staffers, according to both industry sources who spoke to Bloomberg BNA. “I did not come away with a feeling they’d actively consider it,” Schlegel said. EPA spokesman Nick Conger later told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail that the agency “is committed to working with our state co-regulators and the regulated community to ensure that the January 1, 2017, implementation deadline … is met and that workers are provided with the protections they deserve.”
Key now will be whether the measure makes it into a broader spending plan that lawmakers are expected to work on in a post-election lame-duck session of Congress. The current continuing resolution (CR) that is keeping the government funded as Fiscal 2017 is underway will end December 9.