NCC Comments on Rootworm Resistance Proposal

The NCC filed comments on EPA’s proposal to change corn rootworm resistance management provisions saying the agency has proposed a mandate for resistance management without recognizing its detriment to the farming industry.

Published: April 16, 2015
Updated: April 16, 2015

April 15, 2015

Mr. Robert McNally
Bio-pesticides and Pollution Prevention Division (7511P)
Office of Pesticide Programs
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
Washington, DC 20460-0001

RE: Docket o.EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0805:EPA Proposal to Improve Corn Rootworm (CRW) Resistance Management

Dear Mr. McNally:

The National Cotton Council(NCC) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposal to change corn rootworm (CRW) resistance management provisions. The NCC believes EPA is proposing mandates that establish new precedents which can impede producers' ability to determine which crop mix best fits their farming operation. We urge EPA to continue current resistance management provisions and consider alternative cooperative practices that accomplish the same CRW resistance management goal through voluntary programs.

The NCC is the central organization of the U.S. cotton industry representing producers, ginners, warehouses, merchants, cooperatives, textile manufacturers, and cottonseed processors and merchandisers in 17 states stretching from California to Virginia. The NCC represents producers who historically cultivate between 10 and 14 million acres of cotton. Annual cotton production, averaging approximately20 million 480-lb bales, is valued at more than $5 billion at the farmgate. While a majority of the industry is concentrated in the 17 cotton-producig states, the down-stream manufacturers ofcotton apparel and home-furnishings are located in virtually every state. The industry and its suppliers, together with the cotton product manufacturers, account for more than 230,000 jobs in the U.S. In addition to the cotton fiber, cottonseed products are used for livestock feed and cotton-seed oil is used for food products ranging from margarine to salad dressing. Taken collectively, the annual economic activity generated by cotton and its products in the U.S. economy is estimated to be in excess of $120 billion.

The NCC recognizes the importance of resistance management, and the communitywide nature of resistant pest problems. The NCC also recognizes the scientific challenges to develop reliable techniques that can be proven to prevent or at least delay the development of resistant pests. The NCC continues to support voluntary educational programs that convey resistance management strategies and techniques supported by current science that encompasses the latest production practices. Unfortunately, the NCC believes the proposal presented by EPA for CRW resistance management demonstrates a lack of understanding of production agriculture and mandates the use of certain production practices without justification.

As stated in the notice seeking comments, EPA is proposing:

"IPM Stewardship programs.Registrants must supplement IRM (refuges) with IPM techniques. This can be implemented by registrants as a stewardship program as part of the terms of registration that must include the following specific IPM approaches:

  • Crop rotation with no more than two consecutive years of Bt corn (preferably rotating to soybeans). Rotation can be accomplished on a farm-wide basis or field-by-field within a farm.
  • Use of multiple Bt modes of action for CRW control, preferably in pyramided varieties……..
  • Use of non-Bt (conventional) corn with insecticide use for CRW management."

The NCC is concerned that EPA's proposed mandate to registrants to require producers to make crop rotation decisions will conflict with the economic sustainability of independent farm operations. Producers have long maintained their operations by evaluating inputs and costs for various crops. The fluctuations of crop prices and other farm production costs must be weighed with current price trends in order for producers to determine the feasibility of various crops and/or crop mixes. The NCC believes EPA has proposed a mandate for resistance management without recognizing its detriment to the farming industry. The NCC believes this represents an unusual precedent without fully evaluating implications. For instance, what if corn is the only crop produced in the area? Or, what if corn is continually planted in a field because it best meets desires of a sensitive site? Would the two consecutive year requirement then mandate that "registrants" prohibit the producer from planting the field in the third year?

EPA proposes "Immediate implementation of BMPs" and states BMPs (Best Management Practices) are essentially the same as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices mentioned above. The NCC has on previous occasions expressed to EPA concerns with mandating "BMPs" because academic context seldom translates into legal context. BMPs are most often recommendations under ideal circumstances and do not address day-to-day obstacles that producers face.For instance, weather delays, product availability on short notice, equipment malfunctions and other unforeseen events can all impede the use of BMPs. Mandating BMPs creates a legal context that places liability on producers without justification. BMPs are best left as recommendations.

EPA is proposing "Soil-applied insecticides (SAIs) must be prohibited from use in combination with Bt corn for controlling corn rootworm". This action appears to be contrary with use of multiple Modes of Action as a resistance management strategy. The NCC would request an explanation of how a SAI with a different mode of action from Bt corn differs from the requirement "Use of multiple Bt modes of action for CRW control, preferably in pyramided varieties"?

The NCC urges EPA to respect producer operational and business decisions, including the necessity for producers to choose crop mixes based on current markets and other economic factors. Further, the NCC urges EPA to recognize that BMPs identified by scientists are recommendations in "ideal" situations, but must have flexibility at the farm level to address day-to-day operational and business obstacles. The NCC encourages continued research and education programs that provide continual improvement of appropriate ways to implement resistance management on farms.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposal to change corn rootworm (CRW) resistance management provisions. The NCC looks forward to additional opportunities to interact with EPA on this and other issues critical to production row-crop agriculture.


Reece Langley
Vice President – Washington Operations
National Cotton Council