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New EPA Policy on Pesticide Registration Raises Concerns for Agriculture

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced new steps it would take in relation to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when evaluating and registering pesticide active ingredients (AIs). These new steps have raised concerns from the agriculture industry, especially in light of a new registration for Corteva's Enlist One and Enlist Duo herbicides.

When considering a registration, the EPA is now committed to conducting more rigorous evaluations on the potential effects of an AI on federally threatened or endangered species. These evaluations are likely to require additional consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services), which could lead to substantial limitations on approved use depending on the outcome of evaluations under this new process.

With the registration of Corteva's Enlist products announced in early January, this new process led to restrictions that prohibited use of the product in certain counties across the country, including several in Western Arkansas. The registration also included other label changes aimed at minimizing spray drift and runoff where permissible to use.

According to the EPA, the agency previously did not consistently assess the potential effects of AIs on listed species. The agency believes that the previous processes resulted in insufficient protection for listed species and created "resource-intensive" litigation against the EPA.

Going forward, the EPA will conduct a process called a "biological evaluation" for every new pesticide registration that may be followed by the Services to develop a "biological opinion" that could lead to restrictive measures aimed to limit species risk from the AI under consideration, primarily as it relates to spray drift or runoff.

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