September 1, 2016
Office of Pesticide Programs
Regulatory Public Docket (7502P)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20460
RE: Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0242
The National Cotton Council (NCC) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Pesticide Resistance Management Labeling.” The NCC recognizes the impact of pest populations evolving resistance to pest management products and has actively engaged in promoting awareness and educational materials to NCC membership. However, the NCC does not agree with EPA’s assertion of regulatory authority and urges EPA to recognize the distinction between individual and population resistance. Similarly, NCC urges EPA to recognize scientific/academic principles are not absolute and do not easily transfer to regulatory and legal obligations. Although the NCC does not agree with EPA’s claim of authority regarding resistance management, the NCC has identified issues of additional concern within the draft document that warrant clarification if EPA should decide to expand its role.
The NCC is the central organization of the United States cotton industry. Its members include producers, ginners, cottonseed processors and merchandizers, merchants, cooperatives, warehousers and textile manufacturers. A majority of the industry is concentrated in 17 cotton-producing states stretching from Virginia to California. The NCC represents producers who cultivate between 10 and 14 million acres of cotton. Annual cotton production, averaging approximately 16 to 20 million 480-lb bales, is valued at more than $5 billion at the farm gate. The downstream manufacturers of cotton apparel and home furnishings are located in virtually every state. Farms and businesses directly involved in the production, distribution and processing of cotton employ more than 230,000 workers and produce direct business revenue of more than $27 billion. Accounting for the ripple effect of cotton through the broader economy, direct and indirect employment surpasses 420,000 workers with economic activity well in excess of $120 billion. In addition to the cotton fiber, cottonseed products are used for livestock feed, and cottonseed oil is used as an ingredient in food products as well as being a premium cooking oil.
The NCC is encouraged with EPA’s comment “EPA supports broader efforts at developing comprehensive resistance-management strategic plans that may take into account local conditions, soil management, crop rotation, cultural approaches and other factors.” The NCC would agree with EPA that one important factor of the development of pest resistance is the repeated use of pesticides with the same Mode of Action (MOA) on the same target pest population, but would suggest including “single MOA” to clarify other MOA’s are not being utilized for resistance management purposes. The NCC believes, at least for the cotton production states, that local agricultural extension and research experts should be recognized as the resource for local user guidance because of production and environmental differences between regions and states. The NCC urges EPA to limit label changes to information that would assist users following various local expert recommendations.
The NCC agrees with the EPA’s assertion that MOA labeling provides users needed information as they develop resistance management plans for their operation. The NCC agrees with the use of MOA distinctions set forth by the scientific groups proposed.
The NCC is concerned with the EPA’s wording under 2, page 8 for herbicides, 2, page 10 for fungicides/bactericides, and 2, page 11 for insecticides. In all cases, EPA begins by stating the label statements are recommended, but then shifts to a language of absolute. For example, page 8 states”
2. The following additional resistance management labeling statements are recommended for herbicides, although each bulleted statement may not be appropriate or pertinent for every product label:
“To delay herbicide resistance take one or more of the following steps:”
The NCC notes the use of “take one or more of the following steps” becomes a mandate on users. The various steps are great academic principles, but do not always translate well into legal obligations. The NCC urges EPA to re-phrase the sentence similar to “One or more of the following steps are recommended to delay herbicide resistance.” Such language would provide users useful information to complement local extension agronomic recommendations.
Using weed control as an example, the NCC notes that fields often have multiple weed species, some with very low densities. Low density weed species, while not desirable, are seldom the focus in the weed management program. However, the low density species may be the first to demonstrate resistance. Because the surviving weed was not among the focus species of concern, it is possible that field scouting overlooks the surviving plant due to focus on other species. Such challenges raise an issue with a mandated legal obligation.
The NCC is pleased to see EPA acknowledges the values of tank mixes for resistance management. Recent proposed labels have indicated EPA desires to prohibit tank mixes, and the NCC urges EPA to avoid such blanket prohibitions.
The NCC urges EPA to avoid resistance management label language that creates mandates, but rather provide helpful user information to enhance understanding of resistance management. Such language would enhance educational efforts of local experts without implying an over-riding “one size fits all” approach. The issue of pesticide resistance management is complex and is further complicated by differences between weeds, pathogens, and insects. Add to that the various environmental differences across production areas of the U.S. and the complexity becomes enormous. The NCC believes the best approach to provide useful, understandable, practical resistance management strategies that do not seem overwhelming is to support local agronomic extension/research efforts.
The NCC reiterates disagreement with EPA that resistance management is an “adverse effect” under FIFRA. EPA has acknowledged pesticide resistance is present in pest populations prior to the introduction of the pesticide, although usually at a low frequency of individual pests. The NCC believes this demonstrates that resistance is a biological process already present and could evolve as the dominant frequency of the population even in the absence of the pesticide selection pressure. One could argue that the difference between “tolerance” and “resistance” is whether the majority of the population was controlled when the pesticide was first introduced. However, if EPA pursues involvement in resistance management strategies, the NCC urges the involvement be educational.
The NCC appreciates the opportunity to provide comments to EPA’s proposed “Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Pesticide Resistance Management Labeling” and urges the EPA to revise the guidance as educational information with emphasis to contact local experts for additional information relevant to specific production areas.
VP – Washington Operations