Endangered Species impact on crops and The State Plant Board’s Continuing Conundrum
EPA’s Endangered Species review likely to impact crops of the future
The EPA recently embarked on a (somewhat) new era in pesticide review aimed at ensuring that pesticide registrations comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through a new “biological evaluation” process. This new process will result in an “effects determination” that a pesticide either has “no effect,” or “may affect” an endangered species or critical habitat. Besides directly affecting pesticides, the EPA’s biological evaluation process will likely impact how future crops are designed and produced.
EPA’s initial efforts to meet its ESA obligations began in 1988 and was largely reliant on voluntary bulletins by Agencies and local authorities to limit pesticide use in a particular geography. As reported in DTN Progressive Farms, EPA has been sued by citizen groups numerous times (and lost) regarding its obligation to consider Endangered Species in pesticide registrations. In recent years, EPA and other Agencies have collaborated to develop new methods for endangered species effects, and EPA has started the process of bringing all registered pesticides into compliance with the ESA. In January, EPA announced that all registration applications for new active ingredients will be subject to Endangered Species review.
Many crops, especially the major commodities, are designed with pest-fighting traits and include genes that allow the plants to express their own pesticides, or allow spraying with conventional pesticides. One such crop system – the Enlist herbicide tolerance trait – has been impacted by EPA’s biological evaluation process. The registration renewal for Enlist herbicide was the first to go through EPA’s new process, which resulted in a list of counties where the herbicide is banned. Future crop systems that utilize pesticidal traits will have to contend with EPA’s deeper analysis of endangered species which may limit where and how those systems can be used.
Arkansas State Plant Board member suing Himself
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently reported that Travis Senter, a new appointee to the Arkansas State Plant Board, was a founding director of an organization that has sued the State Plant Board as being unconstitutional. This past August, a second lawsuit was filed against the State Plant Board alleging the membership selection process is unconstitutionally controlled by private agricultural associations. Plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are three farmers and FarmVoice, Inc., an organization dedicated to increasing dicamba use in dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton throughout the State. Senter is identified as a founding director in FarmVoice’s filings with the Secretary of State.
Senter’s appointment to the State Plant Board came in September, about a month after the lawsuit was filed. Senter is quoted as saying he was unaware of FarmVoice’s lawsuit and that he stepped down as a director shortly before his appointment. But he also remains a member of the organization. FarmVoice has waged a social media campaign calling for the ouster of the State Plant Board (and longer windows for dicamba spraying).
Senter’s relationship with FarmVoice as a founding director and continuing member results in a scenario where Senter is essentially suing himself as a member of the State Plant Board. In addition to being on both sides of the lawsuit, Senter’s dueling memberships raise a conflict of interest and concerns about being impartial in Board decisions.
Happy National FFA Week!
We want to give a shout out for National FFA Week recognizing the Future Farmers of America, the nation’s finest youth organization for students interested or involved in agriculture. Congratulations to all that wear the blue and gold!