The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised pesticide application exclusion zone requirement in their final rule on agricultural worker protection goes into effect on Dec. 29.
The new rule, which was published in the Oct. 30 Federal Register, relaxes limits on zone boundaries as well as protections inside the zone. An application exclusion zone is classified by the EPA as the area surrounding where a pesticide is applied that must be free of all persons, other than trained and equipped handlers.
Which Changes Are Coming From the New EPA Rule?
The updated rule includes several new provisions that may make workability of farms and agricultural areas easier, but conversely may put more workers at risk.
It’s up to employers and farmers to decide when and how to add in additional protections.
Here are several key changes:
- Exclusion requirements will be applicable and enforceable only within farm owners’ property. This amends current provisions that extend the boundaries to areas outside the farm in which workers and others may be exposed to pesticide processes.
- Farm owners’ immediate family members will be exempt from “all aspects” of the requirement.
- The rule also clarifies that when pesticide applications are suspended as a result of people entering an exclusion zone, the process may be resumed after the individuals have left the area.
- The rule simplifies the criteria for determining whether pesticide applications are subject to a 25- or 100-foot exclusion zone.
In an EPA press release, Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the revisions “make it easier to ensure people near our nation’s farms are protected, while simultaneously enhancing the workability of these provisions for farm owners and protecting the environment.”
The rule was lauded by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Barb Glenn, who supported the proposed rule when it was first published in October 2019.
Those who oppose the rule believe that the revisions compromise protections for workers and families by increasing risk of pesticide exposure. The EPA has linked that exposure to cancer, Parkinson’s, and asthma.
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