Group says implementation of ESA doesn't help salmon; hurts ag

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

A grower coalition and a group of state agriculture directors have called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to improve how it carries out the Endangered Species Act.

The coalition on Sept. 16 petitioned the EPA to "take immediate action to establish clear procedures" in how it is implementing mitigation measures to protect salmon from pesticide exposure.

The coalition said EPA's implementation of the act provides no benefits to salmon and ignores provisions in federal law that call for agencies to minimize the impacts on agriculture.

"The magnitude of the damage (to agriculture) could be severe enough to drive fruit, berry, citrus and vegetable growers to foreign countries, costing both jobs and exports," the coalition wrote in a release announcing its petition.

The coalition -- called GET, for Growers for ESA Transparency -- is made up of Western grower associations, including Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, Western Growers Association, the California Strawberry Commission, the California Citrus Mutual and California AgriBusiness Presidents Council.

Also, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture at a meeting in Dover, Del., Sept. 16-20, adopted a resolution calling for EPA to use the best science available in developing mitigation measures for pesticide exposure.

The association called on EPA to consider the economic feasibility of mitigation measures.

Dalton Hobbs, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said the association "is strongly in favor of considering third-party mediation to move forward the consultation process (between the National Marine Fisheries Service and EPA) as a way to get better agreement on the methods and procedures necessary to evaluate the effects of the pesticides on the listed species."

The Washington State Department of Agriculture introduced the resolution, Hobbs said.

The GET petition highlights several EPA actions that clash with Endangered Species Act provisions, including provisions in Section 1010 of the act that requires the opportunity for public comment and calls for EPA to consider "the needs of agriculture and other pesticide users."

"Instead," according to the petition, "end users are left only with an empty promise on the agency's website, last updated Aug. 29, 2007, that the process for public input is under development."

EPA is consulting with NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a 2002 court order on mitigating the effects of some pesticides on threatened and endangered salmon runs.

The agency has proposed prohibiting applications of certain pesticides near salmon-bearing waters and streams that feed into them. Current proposed no-spray buffers range from 25 feet to 1,000 feet.

The coalition wrote that the current consultation process for EPA's registration of pesticides "is not based on the best scientific and commercial data available, excludes input from affected stakeholders, and results in unwarranted restrictions on pesticide products."

Further, "EPA and the Services should be open to receiving information from knowledgeable third parties, and to accord them a greater role in individual consultations from an early stage," the coalition wrote.

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