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Fifty environmental groups sent a letter on Nov. 14 to the House and Senate agriculture committees opposing S. 2472, which would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unprecedented power to delay any federal safeguards to protect people and wildlife from harmful pesticides.
The Republican-sponsored USDA Communication Regarding Oversight of Pesticides (“CROP”) Act of 2023 would empower the department’s Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP) to delay for up to two years enactment of urgently needed measures by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit harm from dangerous pesticides.
The legislation would also allow the delay of commonsense conservation measures required under the Endangered Species Act to prevent extinction and to recover endangered wildlife.
“The USDA CROP Act is a direct attack on the EPA’s basic ability to protect human health and endangered species from harmful pesticides,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Letting the industry captured Office of Pest Management Policy interfere with the EPA’s core regulatory functions would be a huge blow to measures designed to protect all of us.”
As the groups’ letter notes:
“The Office of Pest Management Policy is simply not an honest broker on best practices for controlling agricultural pests — as Congress intended — but has become an advocate for more pesticide use in virtually all circumstances.
“We have reviewed over 100 comment letters written by OPMP on pesticide issues from 2008 to 2023, spanning three different presidential administrations …
“In each instance, the OPMP opposed efforts by the EPA to impose greater restrictions on pesticides, including highly hazardous pesticides banned by many of our trading partners, such as chlorpyrifos, paraquat, and atrazine.”
The OPMP was established by Congress in 1998 with the mission of ensuring “effective coordination of agricultural policies and activities within the Department of Agriculture related to pesticides and of the development and use of pest management tools.”
Congress intended for the OPMP to promote best practices in integrated pest management — activities designed to reduce pesticide use. Instead, OPMP now only advocates for continued and expanded pesticide use.
The groups’ review of 100 comment letters written by the OPMP revealed that the office never once sought greater restrictions on the use of a pesticide compared to what the EPA proposed.
As far back as 2006 career staff at the EPA raised concerns that they “feel besieged by political pressure exerted” by the OPMP.
This press release was republished from the Center for Biological Diversity.