EPA Denies Palisade Section 18

Tanner Sheahan
CPS Tangent

A few weeks ago I posted a picture and short article about Joe Cacka setting up a research trial to gather data to back a Palisade label on wheat.  Syngenta is applying for a Section 3 federal label for Palisade that may be approved in 2011 or 2012.  We have also been waiting with bated breath to hear back from EPA regarding a Section 18 Emergency Exemption request for Palisade on wheat in Oregon for the 2010 growing season.  EPA has denied it.  I am posting the complete response from EPA below and I'll let you read it for yourself. 

If you have any concerns or opinions you can contact Anthony Britten of EPA directly by clicking his name below. 

This is the email from Anthony Britten of EPA to Rose Kachadoorian of ODA:

I'm fine if you share this email with all the growers who have contacted
you, including Tammy and the commodity association folks.  It is
basically a tightened-up version of  what I sent you on 3/30.

I regret we have been unable to find a path forward to granting the
Section 18 request.  We are definitely sympathetic to the market forces
and pest pressures facing growers, who more than most, experience "the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."  But as you know, we must be
able to document that there is an "urgent and non-routine event"
resulting in a "significant economic loss" compared to the routine
situation.  EPA senior officials must, in turn, sign-off that the
situation meets our regulatory criteria.  So Section 18s do face a high
hurdle.

Basically, we'd need to get closer to a typical emergency scenario to
move any further on this request.  As much as possible, we'd need to
hold the variables to a minimum when considering the situation before
and after the emergency event.   A simplified example of a typical
specific exemption is:

- 10,000 acres of "x" has been in production for several years in "x"
counties.
- The avg harvest has been 100 bushels an acre.
-  An unusual pest-related emergency (non-routine and urgent) has
occurred.
-  There is data to show that this emergency event can reduce yields or
gross revenues by 20% or more (say, avg yields 70-80 bushels per acre),
or net operating revenues by 50% or more (a more data-intensive
threshold).
-  An applicant can select a subset of acreage to show localized
effects, and these data might serve as a basis for allowing emergency
use on more than just those affected acres.

The big challenge for this 18, though, is the urgent and non-routine
aspect.  Unconventional "pests" are always a challenge compared more
typical pests (insects, weeds, and plant pathogens) where it is easier
to document pest pressures and their causes.  In the case of plant
pathogens, for example, we know from experience that there is a
correlation between unusually wet weather at particular times in the
crop cycle and a disease outbreak, as well as how an outbreak affects
yields compared to a typical growing season.

Since there is no baseline for lodging, it's hard to demonstrate that
any given year has had unusual pest pressure, or that the pest pressure
was caused by an urgent / non-routine event, or that the losses meet the
economic thresholds.  (I think this is also the first section 18 request
that EPA has ever received for lodging.)

In our teleconference on this 18 request, late season winds were cited
as a major cause for lodging during the 2009 growing season.   I don't
know how we'd document that high winds are an urgent and non-routine
event unless they are tied to a very unusual weather pattern.

I'm assuming El Nino was not a factor in the 2009 losses cited by the
extension agent.  We also didn't see any clear pattern of yield losses
in 2009.   Looking at the OSU data on yields for the last several years,
the trend is showing higher yields per acre, with the highest being in
2009.   While there was possible evidence of quality losses, these
didn't look especially high to our economists.  See link/attachment.
http://oain.oregonstate.edu/EconInfo/grnhaygras.htm
(See attached file: Willamette Valley-Production and Values, 02-09.xls)

In terms of looking for a correlation between lodging and an urgent,
non-routine event (like weather), the Power Point from ODA's
meteorologist suggests 2010 is a typical El Nino year,  and he cites a
number of previous analog El Nino weather events, the most recent being
in 2003 and going back as far as 1912.
http://oregon.gov/ODA/NRD/docs/dlongrange.ppt

It might help the argument some if there were data showing that a
previous El Nino event resulted in dramatically reduced yields or
excessively high harvesting costs due to lodging, particularly if the El
Nino year started off, like this one, with warmer temperatures in
January / February.   Unless this year's El Nino is an incredibly unique
weather pattern, I'd think there would have been some documented losses
in the past due to excessive lodging.   Still, the baseline issue
remains a problem.

In this case, it seems that market forces, including the collapse of the
grass seed market and the resulting 7 fold increase in the number of
acres being farmed to wheat, have increased the risk for lodging due to:
1) the movement of crop into more marginal growing areas and the use of
varieties that are susceptible to lodging; 2) earlier planting to
accommodate the increased number of acres and thus taller wheat; and 3)
denser stands, which appear to have resulted  in higher yields per acre
over the last several years.

Historically EPA has not factored market forces into Section 18
decisions because they are not pest or environmental conditions
consistent with FIFRA.  EPA has also interpreted expanding acreage as
inconsistent with "emergencies" due to heavy pest pressures and
significant economic losses.   If the purpose of the Section 18 program
were reinterpreted as a mechanism to help expand acreage for a
commodity, then the number of requests for these expedited chemical
reviews and decisions would greatly increase.  Used for crop expansion,
Section 18s would then pull more resources away from the normal and
preferred process for bringing new pesticide products to market (the
full Section 3 registration process).  It would also reduce EPA's
ability to address emergency pest pressures that are contracting the
historical acres, yields, revenues for certain commodities.

All that said, if there is something we've overlooked, or you have more
data, please do let me know, and I'll re-engage, though I realize by now
that the use season is rapidly moving.  It also still isn't clear that
HED could make a safety finding decision in time for the use season.
Again, I regret I'm not the bearer of better news.   
Tony

Here is a summary description establishing a "baseline" of economic losses due to lodging that was submitted to EPA by University and industry personnel such as OSU extension agent Mark Melbye and CPS fieldman Bob Spinney:

Direct Yield Loss

As indicated in the discussion of anticipated significant economic loss
(submitted March 2, 2010), direct yield losses in small grain crops due
to lodging range from 10%-40%. In 2009 the yield loss measured ranged
from $149/acre to $240/acre. In poorly drained soils, wheat is ridge
planted. It is physically impossible to harvest ridge planted lodged
wheat.


Increased Harvest Costs


There are also significant economic losses due to additional harvest
costs. Normally 3 acres can be harvested per hour, the combine speed is
approximately 2.5 mph.  However, in heavily lodged wheat or triticale,
combine speeds are reduced from 2.5 mph down to 0.25 to 0.5 mph,
depending on the severity of lodging and yield of the crop.  Typically
it cost $31.43/acre to harvest wheat; however these costs can be up to
$314/acre in heavily lodged wheat. The added costs of harvesting lodged
grain exceed the actual direct crop loss.


Increased Harvest Time


Because it takes longer to harvest each affected fields, harvesting is
delayed in many fields. This delay increases the risk of weather related
grain damage, including: sprouting, black tip, and grain shrivel, which
adversely affect market grade. Mature wheat is exposed to environmental
problems and increased pest pressures, which reduces grain quality. For
example, pre-harvesting sprouting levels as low as 2 to 5% may result in
the rejection of the grain at local elevators.  Growers are then left to
sell the grain for feed value, which is substantially lower than the
market price for US# 1 and #2 wheat.
In these numbers I see a potential loss of $554/acre not including the added risk of losing an entire crop to weather because it takes so much longer to harvest.  I guess EPA does not find that loss to be significant enough to "find a path" to move forward with the Palisade section 18.