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Ag groups write in support of EPA

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Wow. That’s a lot of signatures.

The list of signers fills over five pages. All of them are major agricultural organizations.

From the produce world, they include the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA), Western Growers (WG), California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the California Cherry Growers and Industry Association, the California Fresh Fruit Association, the California Pear Growers Association, Florida Citrus Mutual, the National Potato Council, the Washington Blueberry Commission, and the U.S. Apple Association.

The letter, dated November 14, is addressed to the Congressional leadership of both houses. It is in support of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The issue? Preemption of EPA guidelines by individual states. Some states, such as California, are imposing more stringent guidelines on the use of pesticides than the EPA. Roundup is the best-known example.

“Some states have begun to regulate pesticides in a manner contradicting decades of scientific guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” says the letter.

“Lack of certainty on EPA-approved, science-based nationwide labels will erode access to current and future pesticides, threatening crops and grower incomes, conservation practices, public health, vital infrastructure, and ultimately raise food prices for families amidst record-high inflation.”

The letter continues: “Growers and users need reaffirmation from Congress that states have every right to build on the federal government’s baseline regulations but cannot directly contradict the scientific conclusions of the EPA” (emphasis in the original).

In short, the agricultural establishment does not want to have each state (like, for example, California) imposing sheaves of rules that go beyond EPA’s provisions. “These actions risk creating an unworkable, inconsistent patchwork of state or municipal pesticide labels that can quickly disrupt commerce and access to these much-needed tools,” says the letter.

It is more than conceivable that the signers had in mind in a Supreme Court ruling in June.

The justices rejected an appeal by Bayer to overturn a California warning label saying that Roundup is carcinogenic in humans. The EPA has ruled that it does not.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to override the state of California marks a current trend in the court to refrain from interfering in state rulings in favor of federal ones.

Wisely, these farm associations are not betting on the Supreme Court to uphold federal standards.

One thing is clear: the generation of ag leaders that cursed the EPA quietly and not so quietly are now looking to it for help.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.