CEU Series: Get The Lowdown On Federal Pesticide Laws

The first regulation of pesticides by the U.S. government occurred in 1910 with passage of the Insecticide Act. The basis of this law was to protect agricultural producers from adulterated or misbranded products. A more encompassing law, the original Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, known as FIFRA, was passed in 1947. Its intent was for the USDA to register all pesticides prior to their interstate commerce. This law remained in place until 1964, when it was amended to allow refusal of products that were determined to be unsafe or ineffective and their removal from the market.

Since pesticides have become an integral part of controlling pests, a succession of federal and state laws has addressed their changing role and regulation. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed and was charged with enforcing FIFRA, which was amended in 1972. Pesticide laws and regulations were refocused with the basic goals of:

  • Requiring EPA registration of all pesticides, each use of the pesticide, and product label approval.
  • Classifying all registered pesticides as either “general use,” which can be used by anyone, or “restricted use,” which requires licensing.
  • Establishing certification and licensing programs carried out by individual states that must meet at least minimal FIFRA requirements, although they are allowed to be more stringent. Licensed applicators are considered to be either “private” or “commercial” applicators.
  • Establishing tolerances for pesticide residues which may legally remain on raw agricultural products or in processed food.
  • Penalizing pesticide users for “use inconsistent with the labeling” of a pesticide.
  • Making it illegal to store or dispose of pesticides or containers other than as directed by regulations and penalizing for illegal handling of containers.
  • Providing civil penalties when there is an unintentional violation of a regulation. Fines can be $1,000 for private applicators and others and as much as $5,000 for each offense by commercial applicators.
  • Providing criminal penalties when the law is knowingly violated. The maximum penalty for private applicators and others is $1,000 and/or 30 days in prison. Commercial applicators may be fined up to $25,000 or one year in prison, or both.

The U.S. government mainly through EPA has set standards for pesticide handling and use. Some practices which were suggested for proper use in the past are now required by law. These include such areas as record keeping, transportation, storage and disposal procedures, reentry intervals, filling and mixing methods, etc. For many applicators these practices are already part of a regular routine. For other applicators some adjustment must be made to meet these new requirements. All the new standards are designed to reduce the risks, to both people and the environment.

Goals

  •  Become familiar with the names and acronyms of the laws and government agencies involved with pesticides.
  • Understand the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
  • Become familiar with, as well as understand the various laws and regulations (in addition to FIFRA) which apply to pesticide use and pesticide applicators.
  • Have a working knowledge of the Worker Protection Standard
  • Be aware that new laws and regulations will occur in the future.

Federal laws and regulations set the standards for pesticide use. States have the right to be stricter than the federal law. The applicator is responsible for knowing and complying with the federal laws and regulations and the specific requirements in each state they may be working in.

The U.S. Congress established the EPA in 1970 and has mandated that the agency regulate pesticides. USDA regulated pesticides before EPA was created. Through its Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), EPA uses the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to manage its mandate.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, And Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

FIFRA was enacted in 1947 replacing the Federal Insecticide Act of 1910 and has been changed (amended) several times since then. The most important amendment to FIFRA was the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act (FEPCA) of 1972 which shifted the emphasis of FIFRA from safeguarding the consumer against fraudulent pesticide products, to a role of protecting both public health and the environment.

FIFRA governs the licensing or registration of pesticide products. No pesticide may be marketed in the U.S. until EPA reviews an application for registration, approves each use pattern, and assigns a product registration number. Registration decisions are based upon data demonstrating that the use of a specific pesticide will not result in “unreasonable human health or environmental effects “. In other words, FIFRA balances the risks a pesticide may pose with its benefits to society.

FIFRA:

  • requires that EPA register all pesticides as well as each use of that pesticide and approves the product label.
  • requires the classification of all registered pesticides as either “general use” pesticides which can be used by anyone or “restricted use” pesticides if the environment or user could be harmed even if the pesticide is used as directed (state requirements are often stricter).
  • requires that the users of “restricted use” pesticides must be certified as, or under the direct supervision of either “private” or “commercial” applicators. Certification is to be carried out by the states (except in Colorado and Nebraska which have federal programs).
  • establishes tolerances for residues that may remain on raw agricultural products or in processed food.
  • provides penalties for “use inconsistent with the labeling” of a pesticide.
  • makes it illegal to store or dispose of pesticides or containers other than as directed by regulations and provides penalties for illegal handling of containers.
  • provides civil penalties when the violation of a regulation is unintentional. Fines can be $1,000 for private applicators and others or as much as $5,000 for each offense by commercial applicators. Before EPA can fine you, you have the right to ask for a hearing in your own city or county.
  • provides criminal penalties when the law is knowingly violated. The maximum penalty for private applicators and others is $1,000 and/or 30 days in prison. Commercial applicators may be fined up to $25,000 or one year in prison, or both.
  • permits states to establish stricter standards, but not more permissive standards.

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