NCC Submits Sulfoxaflor Comments

On June 17, '16, the NCC submitted comments to EPA on their proposed registration for sulfoxaflor and urged the agency to reconsider the proposed decision that removes cotton and other crops from the Section 3 label.

Published: June 17, 2016
Updated: June 17, 2016

June 16, 2016

Office of Pesticide Programs
Regulatory Public Docket (7502P)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
One Potomac Yard (South Building)
2777 S. Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202

RE: Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889 Proposed Registration Decision for Sulfoxaflor

In response to EPA's request for comments on the proposed registration for sulfoxaflor, the National Cotton Council (NCC) strongly urges EPA to reconsider the proposed decision that removes cotton from the Section 3 label.We believe the removal of cotton and other row crops is based on unfounded assumptions that honey bees are present when blooms are present. The NCC believes EPA has failed to comply with FIFRA's risk-benefit analysis and has taken a precautionary position that is not supported by exposure data.

The NCC is the central organization of the United States cotton industry.Its members include producers, ginners, cottonseed processors and merchandizers, merchants, cooperatives, warehousers and textile manufacturers.A majority of the industry is concentrated in 17 cotton-producing states stretching from Virginia to California. The NCC represents producers who cultivate between 9 and 12 million acres of cotton.Annual cotton production, averaging approximately 12 to 18 million 480-lb bales, is valued at more than $5 billion at the farm gate.The downstream manufacturers of cotton apparel and home furnishings are located in virtually every state. Farms and businesses directly involved in the production, distribution and processing of cotton employ more than 125,000 workers and produce direct business revenue of more than $21 billion.Accounting for the ripple effect of cotton through the broader economy, direct and indirect employment surpasses 375,000 workers with economic activity well in excess of $75 billion. In addition to the cotton fiber, cottonseed products are used for livestock feed, and cottonseed oil is used as an ingredient in food products as well as being a premium cooking oil.

In recent years, Lygus has become a key pest of U.S. cotton. The Cotton Insect Losses data shows that Lygus was the second most damaging insect pest to cotton in 2015.The tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris, TPB) has become the primary insect pest of cotton in the Mid-South region of the Cotton Belt. It is not uncommon for TPB to cause near-total crop loss in the absence of effective control strategies in areas of the Delta.

Compounding that problem, TPB has become resistant to several classes of insecticides, including the pyrethroids and organophosphates (Snodgrass et al. 2009. J. Econ. Ent.). In order to manage this season long pest, producers must have multiple modes of action (MOA) available.By limiting the MOA, selection for resistant genotypes is increased and application intervals are shortened, resulting in more insecticide use and higher production costs.U.S. cotton producers cannot sustain TPB applications on four to five day schedules throughout the season with limited products and use rates from which to choose.In addition, producers cannot maintain the resistance management strategies recommended by state and federal entomologists without access to active ingredients in other classes of chemistry. Mid-South entomologists have shown that effective management of tarnished plant bugs requires alternating modes of action, including sulfoxaflor. Without the product, a sufficient number of alternatives do not exist that will provide effective control.For these reasons, the NCC is urging EPA to reconsider its removal of cotton from the proposed registration of this product.

The NCC urges EPA to refrain from imposing a downwind buffer for applications around the field borders.  EPA acknowledges that the potential risk if there is blooming vegetation bordering the field downwind is based on an assumption that "bees are foraging immediately adjacent to the treated fields and that they would obtain 100% of their diet from these areas, which is highly unlikely."   Since the EPA realizes it is unlikely and concedes the assumption, NCC urges the EPA to avoid "buffers" because having a buffer means you provide an untreated area for the pest species to feed, reproduce, and then spread back across the field, resulting in more frequent required pesticide applications.  The NCC urges EPA to recognize the negative consequences of buffers which become the source of crop pests.

Additionally, the NCC urges EPA to avoid restrictions on tank mixes.  EPA states  it is "considering whether restriction on tank-mixing sulfoxaflor are necessary to prevent unreasonable adverse effects, and is inviting comments on the issue of synergism and the potential for tank mix restrictions…" EPA acknowledges the reduction in fossil fuel use by maximizing the use of a single application with multiple products.  EPA also acknowledges the benefits related to resistance management.  EPA acknowledges "if there is evidence to suggest that there are potential synergistic effects, EPA may require such data…"  The NCC urges EPA not to impose blanket tank mix restrictions that by regulation will force producers to engage in production practices inconsistent with resistance management recommendations.  Such regulations increase costs and place additional burdens on timely management decisions.  Those tank mix applications may not be additional insecticides, but may be for other purposes such as weed control, plant growth regulation, or initial preparation for harvest (i.e. defoliation etc.).  Time management is greatly enhanced by the ability to tank mix and utilize one application for multiple purposes.  EPA has stated it has the authority to address tank mix concerns that arise; therefore the NCC urges EPA not to impose unnecessary burdens that are known to produce negative environmental impacts.

The NCC does not find supporting documentation for the position that if blooms are present, honey bees are present – especially not at sufficient densities to present colony loss.It is reported that the U.S. has approximately 2.5 million managed colonies of honey bees. It is also reported that in 2015, the U.S. had approximately 8.5 million acres of cotton and 85.1 million acres of soybeans.The combined cotton and soybean acreage of 93.5 million acres – if divided among all honey bee colonies – would result in an average distribution of 37 acres per colony.It is clearly obvious, considering the congregation of colonies for pollination services and congregation of colonies in apiary yards, that many acres exist that do not have a potential for the presence of managed honey bees.The EPA's action to totally remove crops because of indeterminant bloom clearly represent an unsupported assumption that if blooms are present, honey bees are present. The NCC believes such unfounded assumptions violates the risk assessments of FIFRA and becomes "speculation for protection" strategy.

The NCC further requests the EPA to recognize that the EPA provided no "benefits" analysis for the removal of cotton, soybeans, strawberry, cucurbits, and citrus. The NCC requests compliance with FIFRA's risk-benefits mandates.

The NCC urges EPA to consider the validity of mitigation language that would clearly address exposure concerns and thus eliminate the risk in cotton production. The NCC believes such language could state:

For Products without Residual Activity

This product is toxic to bees exposed to treatment.Do not apply this product to blooming, pollen-shedding or nectar-producing parts of cotton plants if managed bee hives are known to be within 500 feet of the field location unless the application is made at dusk or during darkness when bees are not active.

For Products with Residual Activity

This product is toxic to bees exposed to treatment and for _X_ hours/days** following treatment.Do not apply this product to blooming, pollen-shedding or nectar-producing parts of cotton plants if managed bee hives are known to be within 500 feet of the field location.

Such language provides clear protection for the managed bees without assumptions of the presence of managed bees and without denying producers, absent managed bees in their area, access to critically important crop protection products.

The NCC is aware of the vast amounts of data EPA has received demonstrating the losses cotton producers will incur in the absence of sulfoxaflor. The NCC believes that by removing "indeterminant blooming" crops, the EPA is setting a precedent that jeopardizes the future of U.S. agricultural row crop production.The assumptions that if blooms are present, bees are present is not supported.Further, the link between bee density, if present in a cotton field and colony survival is not supported.The risk-benefits comparison is absent. The NCC strongly urges EPA to return to its scientific roots and comply with FIFRA mandates by identifying the facts and addressing the facts – including valid mitigation solutions that eliminate the risk of concern.

Respectfully submitted,

Reece Langley
VP Washington Operations