MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council appreciates the EPA’s proposal to change some aspects of the Worker Protection Standards (WPS) that were finalized under the last Administration.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made the announcement today regarding the proposal that provides much needed changes to what is called the Application Exclusion Zone, or AEZ. The AEZ is a 25- or 100-feet, unoccupied, “floating” area around any pesticide application equipment that “moves” with the equipment. This zone is to remain unoccupied during the pesticide application. Problems arose, though, because farmer’s homes and buildings are most often in or next to their fields and would have to be vacated under the AEZ rules. Also, many fields are adjacent to other properties and public roads where the farmer or applicator has no control.
The proposed revisions will: 1) modify the AEZ to be enforceable only on the farmer’s property; 2) exempt immediate family from having to leave their homes or outbuildings; 3) clarify that applications can resume as soon as an individual has vacated the AEZ; and 4) simplify the decision-making process on whether the AEZ must be 25-feet or 100-feet.
NCC Chairman Mike Tate, an Alabama cotton producer, said, “I believe these changes, when finalized, will provide much-needed assurance to farmers and applicators, reduce their potential liability, eliminate the loss of useable field edges and still protect human health and the environment. Our industry is grateful for the practical, commonsense approach that Administrator Wheeler and his team continues to utilize when determining how best to ensure public safety and health without undue, burdensome regulations on family farms.”
In EPA’s news release regarding the agency’s proposal, Wheeler noted that the proposal would “enhance the agency's Application Exclusion Zone provisions by making them more effective and easier to implement. In listening to input from stakeholders, our proposal will make targeted updates, maintaining safety requirements to protect the health of those in farm country, while providing greater flexibility for farmers."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stated in EPA’s release that, "President Trump made a commitment to our farmers to reduce burdensome regulations, and this is another example of him making good on that promise. This action will make it easier for our farmers and growers to comply with the Application Exclusion Zone provisions, providing them with the flexibility to do what they do best - feed, fuel, and clothe the world."
The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register.