EPA excludes ‘zone requirements’ for pesticide applications

-The Hagstrom Report

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday announced that the agency has changed the regulation for the application of pesticides so that the Application Exclusion Zone applies only within the boundaries of the agricultural establishment and not off the farm.

The change also exempted immediate family members of farm owners from all aspects of the AEZ requirements. EPA said the change means that “farm owners and their immediate family are now able to shelter in place inside closed buildings, giving farm owners and immediate family members flexibility to decide whether to stay on-site during pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining.”

The regulation added new clarifying language so that pesticide applications that are suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ may be resumed after those individuals have left the zone, and simplified criteria to determine whether pesticide applications are subject to the 25- or 100-foot zone.

“Today’s revisions are consistent with the 2018 Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA),” EPA said. The AEZ requirements are part of EPA’s agricultural Worker Protection Standard regulations.

“Since Day One, the Trump administration has been committed to protecting the health of all our citizens,” said Wheeler. “The changes to the AEZ requirements make it easier to ensure people near our nation’s farms are protected, while simultaneously enhancing the workability of these provisions for farm owners and protecting the environment.”

EPA noted that the original regulation was enacted in 1992 under EPA’s Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act authorities to protect farm workers from pesticide exposures in production agriculture.

The Worker Protection Standard requires owners and employers on agricultural establishments and commercial pesticide-handling establishments to protect employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides.

In 2015, EPA revised the regulation to require agricultural employers to keep workers and all other individuals out of an area called the “application exclusion zone” (AEZ) during outdoor pesticide applications.

The AEZ is the area surrounding pesticide application equipment that exists only during outdoor production pesticide applications, and is described as 25 feet in all directions for ground pesticide applications when sprayed from a height greater than 12 inches, and 100 feet in all directions for outdoor aerial, air blast, air-propelled, fumigant, smoke, mist and fog pesticide applications.