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Pesticide Field Programs Contribution to National Pesticide Program Mission

Current as of April 2, 2007

Pesticide Field Programs

The National Pesticide Program has several principal goals:

  1. protection of public health from potential risks of pesticide use,
  2. protection of the environment from potential risks of pesticide use
  3. ensuring adequate pesticides are available for their beneficial contributions to society (i.e.,  public health protection, a safe and adequate food supply, structural pest control),
  4. supporting and promoting the use of less toxic pest control measures (safer pesticides/safer practices), and
  5. ensuring efficient and effective management of public resources.

These goals are achieved only through the combined effect of a number of interrelated programs, activities and organizations.  The National Pesticide Program registers new pesticides, reviews older pesticides, and operates a multi-level infrastructure to promote the safe use of pesticides after registration.  Broadly, the program has four major components which, taken together, result in meaningful reduction in potential risks from pesticides:

The National Pesticide Field Program contributes to risk assessment and risk management in part by facilitating communication between EPA, states and tribes where the impacts of pesticide use are monitored.  However, its primary responsibility and contribution to attaining national public health and environmental protection goals is to ensure that safeguards developed through statutory mandates, licensing actions and national policies are translated into real world protection through effective risk mitigation.

While pesticide regulatory decisions are largely centralized at EPA headquarters, their effective execution depends upon actions by the pesticide user.  Therefore, successful risk mitigation relies on a wide network of state, tribal, regional and headquarters resources, actions and activities.   The demands of evolving science, efforts to minimize costs, and the desire for appropriate local implementation flexibility have created an increasingly complex regulatory system.   Pesticides are used in diverse settings (e.g., residential, agricultural, commercial, and public areas) and the types of pesticides available vary widely (e.g., insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, repellents, wood preservatives, bioengineered pesticides).  With use directions and limitations often tailored to specific products, there is a concomitant need for increased field assistance and presence.

A National Pesticide Field Program of state lead pesticide agencies, tribes, EPA regional offices and EPA headquarters staff perform the frontline protection activities essential to attaining the national program goals.  These activities include:

Value: By educating farmers and farmworkers so that safe pesticide practices and restrictions such as field reentry intervals are understood and practiced, farm workers and their families are protected from harmful pesticide exposures and pesticide poisoning.  By supporting comprehensive programs to instruct pesticide users on risk mitigation measures and regulatory requirements, protection of public health and environmental quality can be achieved and critically needed pesticides can remain available with appropriate safeguards.

Value: A well-informed public can make better individual risk mitigation decisions and more effectively participate in local, state and national pesticide public policy decisions.  Tailored risk communication messages helps consumers avoid risks and prevent serious human injuries, sickness, loss of property and environmental degradation..

Even routine licensing actions can need local interpretation to insure fairness and the application of common sense.  It is impossible with such a broad and variable national program to anticipate and account for all situations.  The most carefully developed risk management controls and label language require local interpretation to ensure intended compliance while avoiding unnecessary actions due to misinterpretation.  The field program has the responsibility of interpreting federal regulations and policy in the context of specific situations.  State-delegated programs are in a position to address location-specific application concerns.  EPA Regional Offices ensure that minimal standards of protection are not compromised because of this localized approach. 

Value:  A flexible program ensures that decisions can be fine-tuned to specific application circumstances, providing more effective human health and ecological protections.  This approach also saves money by avoiding unduly conservative national licensing decisions and labeling requirements, thereby ensuring pesticides are as widely available as possible to support safe food production and other beneficial public health outcomes (e.g., mosquito control, rodent control, etc.).

With their broad knowledge and long experience with actual pesticide practices, field personnel bring an invaluable perspective to pesticide policy deliberations.  They are persuasive advocates for practical and workable risk management requirements.  Their experience having to directly apply and interpret national decisions in the field for practitioners and citizens makes them particularly adept at promoting win-win options and understandable language.  In situations involving cross-jurisdictional issues, EPA staff can foster problem-solving by bringing together appropriate partners and resources.

Value:  Early involvement in fact-finding and decision-making by those with frontline experience promotes more easily implemented requirements and avoids confusion, delays, and unnecessary burdens in achieving risk reduction.

Value:  Monitoring of real-world field activities provides a feedback mechanism that enables national programs to maximize human health and ecological protections while minimizing disruption to agricultural production and other economic activities.  This information is also critical to allow decisionmakers and the public to understand the effectiveness and progress of the national pesticide risk reduction program.

Value:  Oversight by the National Field Program fosters protection of public resources, and effective coordination of federal, state and local efforts to advance key priorities.

Absent this field program infrastructure, pesticides posing any significant level of risk could not be registered. 

These protections are provided through frontline activities of state and tribal co-regulators in close coordination with EPA regional staff.  States and tribes make this important contribution to the pesticide field program despite stagnant or reclining resources, which makes the continuation of an effective field program all the more essential.

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