New Restrictions on Fumigant Labels Effective Dec. 1

New federal labels that contain new rules for applying major soil fumigants, including methyl bromide, chloropicrin and metam sodium, are in effect as of Dec. 1. (The rules apply to Telone C-35, which contains 35% chloropicrin.) The added restrictions are a result of a federal EPA review. The restrictions are intended to prevent bystander exposure from fumigation and include buffer zone restrictions (depending on tarp usage), notification requirements and the requirement that trained applicators be present.

In many cases, these new rules duplicate state label requirements already in place, and in some cases the requirements may be more or less stringent. In either case, they add an additional layer of complexity for growers seeking to fumigate open ground prior to planting almonds. Almond growers should be sure to compare federal and state label requirements before fumigating. However, in a rare example of avoiding confusion, EPA has agreed that California growers should follow Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) buffer zones. For more information, EPA has set up a “soil fumigant tool box” on its website.

Requiring a trained applicator to be present during fumigation is a new requirement that goes beyond state label requirements. Growers will also need to complete farm management plans and have them accessible prior to application, similar to existing state rules.

New notification requirements have also been added to labels; however, that requirement is satisfied collectively by product manufacturers. Under the new labels, manufacturers must provide educational information to first responders and to communities where fumigants are widely applied.

A flyer will be distributed annually in target communities stating generically that fumigants are used in the area and providing bystanders instructions in case of exposure.

“Communities will be getting more information sent out to them related to soil fumigation, which may generate additional questions related to soil fumigation from neighbors,” said Almond Board’s Gabriele Ludwig.

And this is not the end of the regulatory changes for soil fumigants. Starting in 2013, EPA will re-review all the fumigants (soil and postharvest). This review is expected to take several years. In addition, DPR will be releasing a risk assessment of chloropicrin in the next couple of months that is likely to lead to additional regulations. DPR is also assessing whether Telone meets toxic air contaminant standards. And, DPR is releasing a revision to the pesticide volatile organic compound (VOC) rule that will include some new methods or changes in methods for applying soil fumigants.

One hopeful sign is that DPR is considering the use of TIF tarps, which significantly reduce fumigant off-gassing. The Almond Board has co-funded research on the effect of TIF tarps on offgassing, and the results of that research are now informing the regulators.