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Changes proposed for pesticide rules

WSDA hoping to consolidate and simplify some regulations

June 2017
By Trista Crossley

Editor’s note: Throughout this article, we use the term “pesticide” to include herbicides.


Although proposed changes to the state’s use-restricted pesticide rules will be available for public comment later this summer, the overall goal of consolidating and simplifying the state’s use-restricted pesticide rules remains elusive.

In 2015, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) formed an industry stakeholder workgroup that included representation from the wheat, potato, wine and juice grape sectors; pesticide dealers and aerial applicators to review the regulations and provide input on simplifying them. According to Joel Kangiser, policy assistant in WSDA’s Pesticide Management Division, despite the good-faith efforts of the workgroup, consensus on several major issues remained out of reach.

“There are two issues that are holding up major consolidation of the rules, and we just were not able to come up with any restrictions that we could combine and apply to the whole area. These are very complex issues that will take a lot more work,” he explained. “What we decided to do was go ahead and make some progress. The changes we are proposing are things we believe are acceptable to all parties. The changes clean things up and modify some outdated rules, in particular, the nozzle pressure requirements.”

The state’s current regulations regarding nozzle pressure requirements are so outdated, Kangiser said, that if growers were to follow those rules, they could actually be putting sensitive crops more at risk. WSDA currently issues a blanket permit every year that allows applicators to bypass those specific rules. The proposed change will refer applicators to a manufacturer’s recommended combination of nozzle type/size and pressure that creates a specific droplet spectrum rather than just the size of the nozzle. The other proposed changes deal mainly with removing redundancies between county and statewide rules and removing restrictions that are no longer relevant.

Evening cutoff was one of the two issues that remain out of reach for the workgroup. Evening cutoff times dictate when pesticides can be sprayed, which according to statewide rules, start at three hours before sunset and go until sunrise the following morning. However, several areas that have an abundance of sensitive crops, such as grapes, have cutoff times that start at three hours before sunset and go to two hours after sunrise.

“The group was not able to reach a compromise and consolidate those into one cutoff time,” Kangiser said. “The other major issue is the low volatile (LV) ester cutoff dates. We talked about different ways we might be able to do that, but we couldn’t reach any conclusion on how we could consolidate all of those cutoff dates and still be protective of crops without imposing regulatory burdens.”

Ester formulation of phenoxy herbicides can volatilize when temperatures get in the 80s and higher, and the vapor can travel long distances. Grapes are especially sensitive to phenoxy damage during bud break, which occurs at different times in different areas of the state. Some areas of Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties have year-round prohibitions on LV applications. Other areas in those same counties have a cutoff date starting on April 5, while other areas have a cutoff date as late as May 15. Some areas that don’t have vineyards don’t have a cutoff date at all.

Kangiser said he was disappointed but not surprised that the group was unable to simplify these rules. He said WSDA will likely need to seek more information on phenoxy herbicides and the impacts of changing the current rules before any more progress is made.

“There are more than 50 different areas (in Eastern Washington), and they have different restrictions. Bringing them all together and consolidating them is very complex and will take a lot more work,” he said.

The proposed changes will be available for public comment this fall, and WSDA is planning to hold multiple public hearings near the end of the year.

“We want to make sure we are past harvest so stakeholders will have a chance to participate in public hearings. After the public hearings are over, we will respond to the comments received and decide whether or not to go forward with what we’ve proposed or make changes. We would anticipate to have rules adopted and in place before the 2018 season,” Kangiser said.

Some of the other proposed changes in the use-restricted pesticide rules include:

• Repealing temperature restriction (85 degrees) in individual counties (this is covered in the statewide rules);

• Repeal wind restrictions in individual counties (not relevant without context such as wind direction);

• Repeal restriction in statewide rules that limits addition of oil carriers and adjuvants to one pint per acre (no longer relevant);

• Repeal restrictions on oil carriers for brush control in individual counties (no longer relevant);

• Repeal mixing, loading and equipment decontamination provision in statewide rules (this is covered in general pesticide rules);

• Repeal provision in statewide rules that prohibits turning and flying low over cities, towns, sensitive crops, etc. (this restriction only affects aircraft when the booms are off; WSDA already refers this complaint to the FAA);

• Repeal use-restricted herbicides applied through irrigation provision (this is already covered by ground application requirements).

A full description of the use-restricted pesticide changes can be found on WSDA’s website.