FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Farmworker Organizing Results in Chlorpyrifos Rules Changes

Press Statement

Woodburn, OR – For the last several years, PCUN, and Beyond Toxics have been pushing for ending the use of a toxic pesticide known as Chlorpyrifos. On December 16, 2020, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA)  released a final rule on the use of Chlorpyrifos, the culmination of a year-long rulemaking process.  

PCUN’s political director was an official member of the rules advisory committee, initially formed in November 2019, along with partners, and Beyond Toxics. Both PCUN and Beyond Toxics advocated strongly for a public health lens on any rules related to Chlorpyrifos from the ODA. 

“We submitted proposals to the agency on measures that would protect our communities from Chlorpyrifos exposure, with a final ask to fully phase out Chlorpyrifos by Dec 31, 2023” said Martha Sonato, Political Director at PCUN, “Our coalition mobilized hundreds of comments and worked closely with our farmworkers to work through technological issues so they could make their voices heard. We heard loud and clear from our farmworkers the need for a full phase out, who’ve had direct and long term exposure to Chlorpyrifos.”

The rule has several components that involve a partial phase out. Aerial spraying of Christmas trees will continue until the partial phase out by Dec 31st, 2023 (any spraying of Christmas trees will only be permitted from April 1-June 15 until partial phase out). Buffer zones are lower than advocates had requested – from spraying near sensitive sites such as farmworker housing (they’re at 300, 150, 60 ft) . In 2016, EPA concluded that spray uses “require buffer distances of > 300 feet to [result in exposure] below the level of concern.”

It is in fact a partial phase out – since the use of Chlorpyrifos will not be fully phased out by Dec 31, 2023. Chlorpyrifos will be allowed for use in granular form and for commercial pre-plant seed treatment.

The Department acknowledges that granular and seed-treatment uses are likely to increase under the proposed rule, but it does not provide any assessment of how such increases will affect human health or the environment. All Chlorpyrifos products will be classified as a restricted use product starting on January 1, 2021. Definition of sensitive sites, from the edge of the application site to sensitive site, includes farmworker housing. Label definition of sensitive sites is inclusive of places where our farmworkers /children and community, live, work, and play.

In addition, there will be a Restricted Entry Interval of a minimum of 4 days. This standardizes REI for all crops. This REI of 4 days provides slightly better protection for farmworkers and farmers when they return to a site that has been sprayed than what is currently in place. Certification, Licensing & Training will also be required, currently, a farmworker could apply Chlorpyrifos without certification/licensure, as long as they are supervised by a licensed applicator. The new rule states that only certified and licensed public, private or pesticide applicators can apply Chlorpyrifos products. Lastly, the final rule requires record-keeping requirements and training in English and Spanish for mixers and loaders to be completed annually.

PCUN’s Executive Director, Reyna Lopez states, “While we’re disappointed that the agency is doing a partial phase out, and not a full phase out, we’re still proud of the hundreds of comments submitted to ODA leading up to this point. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without the countless voices of farmworkers, and community members asking ODA to take action. We see this as a step forward for farmworkers and children’s health and safety across the state.”

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