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Comments submitted on Oct. 23, 2008 regarding Methyl Bromide

Published Oct. 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

Docket :

Methyl Bromide EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-01 23

Chloropicrin EPA-HQ-OPP-2007-03 50

 

Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP)

Regulatory Public Docket (7502P)

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20460-0001

Re: Methyl Bromide and Chloropicrin Re-registration Eligibility Decisions, Docket ID Number Methyl Bromide EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-01 23, and Chloropicrin EPA-HQ-OPP-2007-03 50.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) is the largest general farm organization in the state of Ohio with members in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. Our members produce virtually every kind of agricultural commodity including strawberries and as a result, OFBF is very interested in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) re-registration eligibility decision regarding methyl bromide and chloropicrin.

 
The Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association (OPGMA) is an organization of produce growers and marketers whose goal is to produce exceptional quality crops, for consumers and processors, utilizing environmentally friendly practices. OPGMA provides educational opportunities to businesses, families, and employees associated with the production and marketing of Ohio's fresh produce.

 

We thank you for this opportunity to comment. We have organized our comments per the series of EPA proposed risk mitigation measures (in bold text) as provided in the EPA Commenter’s Guide for Methyl Bromide.

Overview of Strawberry Production in Ohio

Strawberry production in Ohio is an important and valuable crop to many produce growers across the state. Ohio strawberry production is valued annually at more than $6.5 million with over 700 acres in production, according the Ohio Department of Agriculture. These production blocks tend to be predominantly small acreage, 2-5 acres on average, with a few larger production blocks reaching 30 acres.

Several different types of strawberry production practices are used in Ohio including; (1) annual plastic culture in bedded-rows with fumigant being applied in the row under plastic, and (2) A perennial matted row system where the soil is treated with fumigant, tarped, and the new plants are planted after the tarp is removed. Some growers are able to rotate blocks, if they have the land available, which helps to reduce pest and disease pressures but is not a solution to control all production challenges. Growers note that in the initial several years after methyl bromide/chloropicrin use, volume and rates of herbicide can be reduced which is a clear economic and environmental benefit for the growers. Ohio growers generally use a 50/50 mix of chloropicrin and methyl bromide for strawberry treatment, some growers also use metam sodium injected straight into the soil or as part of trickle irrigation systems. Ohio growers usually apply product to matted strawberry blocks in mid-April and the second week of September and apply in plastic culture blocks in August.

Production of strawberries in Ohio is widely dispersed across the state. Unlike California or other areas of the country, Ohio strawberry production tends to be in small blocks located over a large geographic area and often in close proximity to urban and suburban area. Many strawberry growers in Ohio tend to produce for local markets and direct sales to a public interested in purchasing from local farmers. We note that many of the proposals in this set of risk mitigation measures would be very cumbersome, expensive and impossible for small scale strawberry producers to meet. Many of our Ohio strawberry producers simply stated they would have to stop producing strawberries if required to meet all the new practices outlined in this proposal.

 

To this regard, we request that Agency consider flexible requirements for growers of different scale, economic ability and production location. Perhaps a set of mitigation options can be offered on the label that is flexible for different regions of the county. For example, in the west there are concentrated areas of strawberry production with very unique weather patterns and weather inversion challenges. Ohio weather patterns are clearly very different from such areas, plus the dispersion of small scale growers in Ohio both help to reduce risks associated with areas that have major concentrations of fumigant use (i.e. California, etc.). Our smaller scale, differing weather patterns and dispersed production vastly reduce the risk to bystanders and workers.

We are also concerned that these new regulatory requirements will further drive up costs for growers and for certified applicators, who may choose to no longer offer methyl bromide application services.

Buffer Zones

Some Ohio growers are generally comfortable with the suggested buffer zone distances established in the look-up tables of roughly 100-150 feet for smaller blocks and associated use rates. But other smaller scale or land-locked growers are very limited in their ability to comply with these distances. See attached figures one and two for details. The proposed buffer zone and posting recommendations are confusing to growers and have too many varying scenarios. Therefore, we support a more simplified method for requirements. Also some flexibility must be offered to growers dealing with urban development pressures that are not in their control. Restrictions related to buffer zones and sidewalks for example, pose blunt unreasonable restrictions on production with no flexibility and are of particular concern to growers in urban areas who have limited area in which to plant a crop.

Also of major concern to Ohio growers is the quarter-mile use limitation given the scattered nature of development in the state. Ohio growers tend to be located close to their markets, with producers being involved in direct sales and operating farm markets. While we appreciate the flexibility offered by the Agency per the 48-hour buffer requirements, which presumably could allow applications to take place during weekends or when children are not in schools, such windows of opportunity are often not available. For example, in Ohio, and presumably elsewhere, many churches house preschool and daycare centers which have children on-site during the week and hold church services on weekends, so that the structures are always occupied. These situations are common in Ohio and would not allow growers any window to apply product. It is also unclear in the proposal if these restrictions apply to the property line of an occupied structure or to the building itself. This restriction also limits urban agriculture production, which our growers value and is key to their business. Given the growing interest in marketing more local foods and the related opportunities this offers consumers and growers alike, we view this restriction to be very limiting. Some additional options need to be offered to growers producing in such proximity to these types of facilities. Perhaps this restriction should only apply to a certain use and acreage volume; or perhaps some type of monitoring system could be offered as an option; or application being allowed only when certain weather requirements are met; or a combination of rate reduction and weather conditions being met. Perhaps VIF film could be required if one of these structures are located within a quarter-mile of application. See figures one and two of the attachment for photographs of sample strawberry production in Ohio, and the challenges such quarter-mile use limitation and buffer zones will have on small Ohio growers.

Posting Requirements

Similar to proposed buffer zone requirements, some posting requirements could be simplified. For example, we suggest that it be made clear that if property within 300 feet of the edge of the buffer in not under the control of the growers and where signage is required, that the posting should be made on the growers property. Also the cost and availability of acceptable signage was of concern to Ohio growers.

Agriculture Worker Protections

Growers believe that some flexibility with the proposed worker protection requirements should be considered, especially for smaller scale production. Currently in Ohio some methyl bromide applications are conducted by commercial applicators and other applications are conducted by the growers. While commercial applicators are familiar with the use of masks during certain periods of application, many growers are not. Ohio growers, who again, are producing at a smaller scale than say California, have concerns about the use and costs of the masks. It is the growers opinion that if a marker product, such as chloropicrin, is included in the methyl bromide treatment, as is usually the case in Ohio, then the masks should not be required.

Currently no Ohio growers use air monitoring devices which are being proposed for use in various scenarios throughout the proposed mitigation measures. Custom fumigators have stated to growers that the proposed monitoring requirements will increase the growers costs for fumigation services by 50% or more. Cost of the monitoring devices could be as high as $1000 each if growers decide to monitor, plus an additional $50 for consumables used with each application. While there is interest in learning more about such devices, the associated costs are unacceptable to small scale growers. Growers are also concerned about the accuracy of the data that is produced from such devises and the duration in time the data is acceptable. Per masks, growers are concerned about the cost ($32 per cartage, which has limited use time, with the least expensive masks running from $31 - $60 and SCUBA is much more expensive).

Growers are also very concerned about the requirement that workers be “medically examined” as EPA offers no definition for this requirement. The cost of which would be of concern and the willingness of workers to undergo such examination is also of question. Perhaps as an alternative, workers could simply be offered a medical waive that contains all relevant health information. Clearly such forms should meet Worker Protection Standards (WPS) and be available in multiple languages.

The timelines and methods proposed by EPA per tarp perforation, repair and removal are acceptable to Ohio growers as proposed. Also acceptable is the EPA proposal to require two WPS trained and one certified applicator on-site during certain activities.

Good Agricultural Practices

A concern that growers have with the requirements for a series of good agricultural practices being included in the label is that the more specific and detailed the listings, the greater the likely-hood of increased costs being passed to growers from certified applicators. Attention should be given to only include the most valuable information, with any additional guidance and detail being limited. Labels should be clear, easy to understand and kept to the most relevant information.

Application Method, Practice, and Rate Restrictions

Ohio growers are generally acceptable of EPA proposed rate restrictions as applications for strawberries grown in Ohio average 200-250 lb/acre of total active ingredient of combined chloropicrin and methyl bromide (100-125 lbs Methyl Bromide/100-125 lbs Chloropicrin) for plastic culture production. The average rates for broadcast application is roughly 350 lbs/acre of 50/50 methyl bromide and chloropicrin. Growers are concerned that such rate reductions should have exceptions if situations arise that would require additional usage.

Some Ohio growers do use VIF film which allows for less methyl bromide usage and volatility. Growers support the idea of gaining “credit” for use of practices such as the use of VIF film or perhaps trickle irrigation of metam sodium, in which that “credit” can be redeemed through less buffer zone requirement and other reduced application restrictions.

Restricted Use Pesticide Classification

Ohio growers are acceptable of the EPA proposal to classify all the fumigants as restricted use.

Site-Specific Fumigant Management Plans (FMP’s)

Ohio growers believe the new requirements for site-specific fumigant management plans (FMP’s) will take much longer, be more time consuming, and perhaps more costly that the actual application of product. There is also concern that these plans, which require a volume of information, could become a source of needless penalty if the smallest of mistakes are made on such forms. This is of particular concern given that the focus of labels and risk mitigation measures are aimed at the safety of applicators, workers and bystanders and if label requirements are being met, no incident are occurring, and no safety issues arise, growers should not find themselves in potential jeopardy over a minor paper work mistake. No penalization for paperwork violations should be made unless there was a real incident that lead to real harm. Even in such situations, paperwork violations only related to the incident should be subject to penalization. It is also unclear what the Agency means by “adjacent” area per notification requirements, as this is not defined.

Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements

Given that Ohio is not a high use area for methyl bromide as a whole, nor are any areas within the state high use areas in particular, we do not understand how this section of the proposal will be implemented in the state. Some clarification would be appreciated.

Notice to State and Tribal Lead Agencies

Concern for the notification requirements is also an issue for Ohio growers. Such notification seems overly burdensome to the growers and the state lead agency. We suggest that if growers are keeping a limited set of records per application, such record keeping should be acceptable to fulfill any needs of state lead agencies which can obtain such records upon request, as stated in the proposed measures.

Future rulemaking regarding the proposed risk mitigation measures should not be proposed without careful consideration of the issues we have raised. The Ohio strawberry industry is an important component of Ohio agriculture and we thank you again for this opportunity to comment.


Sincerely,

John C. Fisher, Executive Vice President

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation

&

Bob Jones, President

Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association

 

CC: Ohio Congressional Delegation

 

 



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