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 Maine Board of Pesticides Control - June 2007 Minimize

Pesticides Board Pressured by Structural Pest Control Industry

After an exhaustive process, Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) adopted Chapter 26, Standards for Indoor Pesticide Applications and Notification for All Occupied Buildings Except K–12 Schools, in May 2006, and the standards became effective on January 1, 2007. Since then, members of the structural pest control industry have complained that the rule is unworkable and burdensome.  

The New England Pest Management Association introduced LD 1698, “An Act To Provide for Public Notification of Indoor Pesticide Applications,” sponsored by Senator Nancy Sullivan. LD 1698 sought to change procedures for notification,1 exempt crack and crevice (C&C)2 treatments from notification requirements and exempt FIFRA Section 25(b)3 pesticides from the rule. The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry reported the bill out as ‘ought not to pass,’ contingent on the BPC’s placing the issue on its next meeting agenda.  

Accordingly, the BPC reviewed concerns of the structural pest management industry at its June 2007 meeting.  Representatives from several pest control companies were present and admitted that the exemption for FIFRA Section 25(b) materials that was part of the proposed legislation was not necessary. The real issue for them is that they must follow the same notification requirements for C&C treatments as for any application, which they believe causes an undue burden on their business. They argue that C&C treatments are exempted in Chapter 27, Standards for Pesticide Application and Public Notification in Schools, and that the rules should be consistent.  

Board members who helped develop the rule maintain that a definition is needed of C&C that avoids exposure; and that their concern is primarily with potential exposure to airborne particulates.

A representative from Modern Pest Services explained that equipment and products keep getting better, but pesticide applicators are not required to use these improved products.   

Russell Libby, MOFGA’s executive director, suggested that the BPC review all notification requirements across all rules, evaluate which work best, and develop a standard notification procedure. The BPC directed the staff to draft language around C&C applications and posting requirements that would satisfy all parties. The public may comment to the BPC on this issue.

Genetically Engineered Bt Field Corn    

At its April 2007 meeting, the BPC discussed pending registration requests from three companies covering seven Bt corn products (corn that has been genetically engineered to express a toxin produced by the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium). A technical committee is reviewing concerns relating to insect resistance and gene flow (including pollen drift). Lauchlin Titus, Certified Professional Agronomist, presented information he has collected to support the need for these products.

Titus estimates that the percentage of Maine corn growers using soil insecticides has gone from 15 in 2003 to 40 in 2006. (Other professionals working in the field estimate that the insecticide use in the state is much lower.) From Titus’ perspective, this increase is explained partly by a difference in the economic climate and relative costs of these products now compared with four years ago. Titus assumes that if farmers can afford these products, they will purchase and use them as ‘insurance’ against crop failure.   

The Bt corn seed will cost an additional $5 to $10 per acre (assuming the farmer is already purchasing seed with other ‘stacked traits,’ such as Roundup Ready), while reducing the current $6-12 per acre cost of applying insecticides, with the additional benefit of eliminating personal and environmental risk associated with use of the product(s).  

Titus agrees that crop rotation is the best option to limit pest pressure, but that option is not viable for the farmers with whom he works, who have to continuously plant all the land they have available. Titus believes that these Bt corn products may increase yields, but no data from studies in Maine support this.  

Another serious challenge to Maine farmers is that seed companies are making fewer and fewer seed varieties without this trait, so options, especially for short season varieties, are limited without registering Bt corn varieties.

Despite over 100 emails and 50 people present to oppose registration of Bt corn, the BPC voted at its July 29 meeting to register seven genetically engineered field corn products from three companies, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto. In registering any new pesticide, the BPC is charged with determining that a need for the product exists and that use of the product will not cause unreasonable, adverse effects on the environment. The BPC determined that farmers had made a sufficient case for need, citing competitive disadvantage and reduced exposure to pesticides; and that the products present no unreasonable adverse effects that cannot be addressed through conditions imposed on registration of the product and through further rulemaking around use of the product. Board member John Jemison abstained from voting, but the remaining five members voted to approve the registration request with two conditions: that the applicant provides aggregate sales data to the board; and that the applicant participates in and supports an education program.

The board also voted (5-0-1, with Jemison abstaining again) to instruct BPC staff to draft rulemaking to address concerns including pollen drifting onto neighboring farms, establishing and enforcing a sufficient education program around the use of Bt corn, and tracking sales. A public comment period will follow the rulemaking.

Browntail Moth and Marine Waters

The Maine Legislature enacted emergency legislation in the spring of 2006 and 2007, temporarily restricting pesticide applications near marine waters to control browntail moths. The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry agreed with a recommendation from the BPC to continue the restrictions during 2007, so that the BPC could develop a rule to continue the restrictions indefinitely. A rule will be in place before the 2008 browntail moth spray season.

In the current, temporary rule, biological pesticides, injected pesticides and applications using nonpowered equipment are exempt; rulemaking leaves the specific ingredients up to the discretion of the BPC.  No spray is allowed within 50 feet of the high water mark. Spray between 50 and 250 feet of the high water mark is allowed only with an approved product; with certain application methods; and when the spray is directed away from water and the wind is blowing away from water at 2 mph or more.

Fines

The following companies were fined for violating pesticide application rules:
  • Maine Helicopters, Inc. of Whitefield – Imidan was applied to two blueberry fields in Steuben that were not supposed to be sprayed. A Maine Helicopters’ employee marked the wrong fields on the map supplied to the pilot. A fine of $2,500 was agreed upon.
  • The Lawn Ranger of Brunswick – An unlicensed commercial applicator applied pesticides. A few customers specifically requested that a granular fertilizer/pesticide combination be applied to their lawns. A BPC inspector observed these applications on two occasions.
  • Northeast Agricultural Sales, Inc. – A licensed, restricted-use pesticide dealership operated a major pesticide storage facility that did not comply with BPC requirements in Chapter 24. The staff pursued enforcement action after the company was very slow to respond to BPC efforts to bring the facility into compliance.  A fine of $2,000 was agreed upon.
Russell Libby told the BPC that if a major storage facility is noncompliant, the board should not wait a year to inspect the facility and another year to inspect again after major violations were found upon the first inspection. Board chair Carol Eckert agreed, especially considering the potential for disaster in such a large facility.

Other Business

The board is developing acceptable methods of “Verifiable Authorization” for commercial applicators providing ongoing, periodic applications. As of the June 2007 meeting, the BPC is leaning toward requiring one method of verification if a response is received (ex/pre-payment, signed contract) and two methods of verification otherwise (mailing where details of pesticide application are prominent, record or recording of phone call, e-mail).

The BPC continues to draft language regarding buffer zones to protect water quality. Defining which types of surface waters would be affected is difficult.  

Following application to the BPC for registration of several plant incorporated pesticide (PIP) products, the technical committee continues to review the potential for gene drift and development of insect resistance from genetically engineered Bt crops. For more information, or to provide information, contact committee chair John Jemison, jjemison@umext.maine.edu, (207) 581-3241.

A stakeholders’ committee will soon issue a final report about pesticide drift issues to the BPC. Contact MOFGA’s associate director Heather Spalding for more information: heathers@mofga.org, (207) 568-4142, MOFGA, PO Box 170, Unity, ME  04988.

New Legislation

LD 861, “An Act To Require a Commercial Applicator's License To Use Pesticides in Food-handling Establishments,” closes a loophole that allowed pesticide applications in non-public areas of food-handling establishments without an applicator’s license.

LD 1798,  "An Act To Fund Pesticide Education in the State," was signed into law, but not before being modified from its original form to remove the funding mechanism of a 15-cent surcharge on each container of pesticide sold.   

LD 1891, "An Act To Designate Certain Rules of the Board of Pesticides Control as Major Substantive Rules," was signed into law in May. Any major rule changes the BPC creates must now be approved by the Legislature before going into effect.

1 The rule currently requires notification of at least 24 hours and no more than seven days before a pesticide application.

2 Crack and crevice treatments are defined in Chapter 26 as “using an injector tip and placing the tip inside an opening to apply small amounts of pesticides into cracks and crevices in which pests hide or through which they may enter a building.“

3 FIFRA Section 25(b) products are defined by the EPA as minimum risk pesticides that do not require an EPA registration.  Many of the products on this list are plant-based, such as garlic, garlic oil, citric acid, citronella and citronella oil.



    

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