WASHINGTON, D.C. – Southeast specialty crop farmers will be challenged to comply with new proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overhauling how it implements the Endangered Species Act (ESA), warns the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance.
“Of course, growers are in favor of protecting endangered and threatened species and their habitats. But the average specialty crop grower is going to find it challenging to comply with EPA’s ESA plans,” said MCFA chair Jim Cranney, president of California Citrus Quality Council.
The MCFA submitted comments to the EPA on Feb. 14. It outlined concerns about a proposed update to EPA’s workplan for implementing the ESA. Cranney added, “MCFA is sympathetic to EPA’s dilemma, but the proposed policy presents potential difficulties that growers may have to address if they want to use pesticides.”
The EPA’s updated ESA workplan proposes extensive mitigation measures to reduce potential for spray drift and pesticide runoff to soil and water. The MCFA believes many specialty crop producers will likely be required to include some mitigation option as part of their pesticide application programs. The MCFA told the agency that EPA’s mitigation measures are suited more for major crop production rather than specialty crop production.
For specialty crops, “the average farm is far less than 100 acres. Consequently, many specialty crop producers do not have as much flexibility or economic wherewithal as major commodity producers in terms of reducing planting acreage or installing new systems for producing their crop. Some of EPA’s proposed mitigation measures would require wholesale changes to established cropping systems, with substantial adverse economic impacts to the impacted specialty crop growers.”
MCFA also cited the potential for EPA’s proposal to negatively impact specialty crop food-safety
“Producers growing specialty crops for human consumption must meet food safety requirements,
including taking steps to ensure that produce does not become contaminated with, among other
things, microbial pathogens from animals, amphibians and reptiles,” said Cranney. “Some of EPA’s
proposed mitigations could create an environment that attracts animals, amphibians and reptiles
into fields, a cause for concern for growers and the public alike.”
In addition, MCFA sought to educate EPA about existing specialty-crop industry practices that
would negate the need for additional mitigation measures. For example, MCFA informed EPA that
off-field pesticide runoff is less of an issue for our industry because specialty crops are typically
grown on lands that are essentially flat or with minimal slope – mitigating the potential for
pesticide runoff by default.
MCFA also informed EPA that specialty crop growers already follow established conservation best
practices to protect bodies of water, and referred EPA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for
extensive data about those existing conservation efforts.
Founded in 1991, Minor Crop Farmer Alliance is funded and led entirely by fruit, vegetable, nut,
ornamental plant and other specialty crop producer organizations from across the United States.
MCFA advocates for sound science in government minor-use pesticide policies, so that growers
have access to safe, effective crop protection tools.
MCFA will host its Annual Meeting for members on Feb. 21. To get involved with MCFA, visit