On September 2, 2022, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking stakeholder input on how to update its organic regulations. on inert ingredients in pesticides used in organic production. . 87 Fed. Reg. 54173. AMS is seeking comments on alternatives to its existing regulations that would align with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory framework for inert ingredients. According to ANPR, information from public comments would inform AMS’s approach to this topic, including any proposed revisions to USDA’s organic regulations. Comments are due November 1, 2022.
According to the AMS, the ANPR is seeking stakeholder input on how to rectify USDA’s organic regulation references to the obsolete EPA policy on inert ingredients used in pesticide products. AMS states that the obsolete references are inconsistent with current EPA requirements and cause problems in the organic industry and for AMS’s administration of USDA organic regulations.
AMS notes that inert ingredients, also identified as “other ingredients” on pesticide labels, are substances other than “actives” (that’s to say, pesticides) ingredients included in formulated pesticides. Inert ingredients can act as adjuvants, solvents, diluents, stabilizers or preservatives. The AMS states that pesticide labels generally do not disclose the identity (common or chemical name) of the product’s inert ingredients.
For organic agricultural and animal production, current USDA organic regulations permit the use of inert ingredients from EPA Lists 3 and 4 in pesticides when the product contains active ingredients permitted by organic regulations. According to AMS, together, EPA List 3 and List 4 contain over 2,700 inert ingredients. AMS says it doesn’t know how many of these inert ingredients are included in products used in organic production, “but it’s likely a relatively small subset of those 2,700 ingredients.” Because the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) required the EPA to develop tolerances (or tolerance exemptions) for inert ingredients used in food contact products, inert ingredients new and existing ones are approved for use through the EPA rulemaking process. Therefore, the EPA no longer updates the EPA lists referenced in the USDA Organic Regulations.
The AMS National Organic Program (NOP) is seeking comments that will help evaluate the feasibility of alternatives that could replace references to obsolete EPA lists. Information submitted in response to ANPR will inform AMS’s approach to this topic, including any proposed revisions to USDA organic regulations. AMS is seeking input to identify alternatives, as well as to receive information on barriers and the costs and benefits of options. According to the AMS, stakeholders likely to be affected by future actions on this topic include pesticide manufacturers, certified organic operations, consumers, certifying agents and other interested parties.