WASHINGTON – House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), House Committee on Agriculture Ranking Member Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and Subcommittee on the Environment Ranking Member Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) are expressing serious concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to ignore top scientists at the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ban a commonly used insecticide that protects America’s food supply. In letters to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack and EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the top Republican lawmakers emphasized that the EPA’s unilateral decision to ban the critical crop protection tool raises serious questions about the agency’s commitment to using the best available science. They are seeking all documents and communications from the USDA and EPA to better understand USDA’s role in the EPA’s internal scientific and regulatory process.
“We are conducting oversight of the U.S Department of Agriculture’s role in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s August 18, 2021, final rule revoking all tolerances for chlorpyrifos on food products,” wrote the Republican lawmakers. “The EPA’s controversial decision to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos on food products has left distributors and growers in a precarious financial position which would normally prompt interagency review for a regulation costing over $100 million dollars. However, EPA has refused to label the revocation as an economically significant regulation, making the final rule exempt from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s interagency review. By EPA’s own estimates, the economic value of chlorpyrifos to the U.S. economy reaches over $130 million annually, and public comments suggest the number is even higher when taking into account growers without alternative options.”
On September 20, 2022, USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack broke with the EPA’s controversial decision to ban chlorpyrifos. In a response provided to Congress, Secretary Vilsack stated that the USDA-Pest Management scientists believe EPA could retain certain chlorpyrifos uses that meet EPA’s safety standards. Secretary Vilsack’s response to lawmakers raises questions about the EPA’s commitment to use the best science in its regulatory decisions.
“Due to the cost of this rule, over 30 subsets of the U.S. agricultural industry, including retailers, applicators, manufacturers, processors, cooperatives, and crop consultants, have raised serious economic hardship concerns with the EPA regarding this action,” continued the Republican lawmakers. “In addition, OMB guidance has been clear to direct the EPA to seek interagency review when EPA actions make pesticide tolerances ‘more stringent.’ Because of the economic hardship and supply chain impacts associated with EPA’s final rule, the tolerance revocation should be labeled as a “more stringent” regulation requiring the EPA to seek interagency review. Ignoring OMB guidance and the economic impact of such a sweeping and costly regulation indicates interagency review was warranted prior to the final rule. Republicans are concerned about the validity of EPA’s scientific and regulatory process.”