Officials charged with environmental protection join tour
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Washington's wheat industry wants to show key decision-makers the realities of pesticide applications on their farms.
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers will conduct a tour for top officials from the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service. The tour will take place June 13-17 throughout eastern Washington.
Eric Maier, WAWG vice president and state legislative chair, said the association will show the agencies how chemicals are applied and the necessity for those chemicals.
The association wants to show the agencies that applications are done according to pesticide label requirements, but not to the maximum rate shown on the label, he said.
Maier said the issue affects farmers nationwide, pointing to upcoming biological opinions for about 343 chemicals used in agriculture.
Don Brady, director of the environmental fate and effects division for the EPA office of pesticide programs, will attend the tour.
Brady said the agency often participates in these sorts of tours designed to give decision-makers an opportunity to see conditions and practices on the ground.
Potato growers will also be involved in the tour. Other commodities are also involved.
Maier said change needs to come from the agencies.
"The consultation process between the two agencies has to move effectively and quickly, and that's what we're trying to help facilitate," he said.
Will Stelle, regional administrator for NOAA's Pacific Northwest region, has been involved in NOAA's consultations with EPA to assess the effects of pesticides and herbicides on West Coast salmon habitats.
"The better educated we are about what people are doing on the ground, the better we are able to do our business," said Stelle, who will participate in the tour.
Stelle advised growers to consider the parameters the agencies have to work with and come up with recommendations.
"Try to understand the obligations we have in conducting these legally defensible, scientifically sound effects analyses," he said. "Fashion some recommendations for us on how we can be more successful and depict more accurately the facts of these pesticides and herbicides."
"I hope to learn more about what the Washington wheat growers do in terms of agricultural production, and gain some information that may be relevant to me in the future," Brady said.
The court-ordered consultations will continue, Stelle said. The fourth consultation is in its final stages, and recommendations will be released to EPA in June. A fifth consultation begins this summer and will be completed by next spring.
Brady said the EPA, USDA and departments of Commerce and the Interior have requested the National Academy of Sciences to review some of the issues underlying biological opinions behind chemical applications. That process has begun, he said.
The tour will begin in Spokane and includes sites in Valleyford, Colfax, Othello and Moses Lake and Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River.
Washington Association of Wheat Growers: www.wawg.org
NOAA Fisheries: www.nmfs.noaa.gov