Federal Appeals Court Blocks EPA Rule Banning Chlorpyrifos

A federal appeals court in St. Louis has stuck down EPA’s rule that effectively bans chlorpyrifos, a pesticide widely used in agriculture. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a years-long battle involving environmental and agribusiness groups that the EPA failed to follow sound science and the law when it revoked chlorpyrifos tolerances in a 2021 rule.

The American Farm Bureau Federation was among several farm groups that sued the EPA. AFB attorney Travis Cushman says the courts originally gave EPA six months to modify its tolerances rule. He says, “And rather than modify them and follow the science on it, they kind of just threw up their hands and canceled all tolerances. And the court found that was inappropriate without first looking at the science and the law.”

AFB’s Sam Kieffer said when EPA issued its rule, soybean producers and fruit and vegetable growers would have to turn to fewer, less effective, and more expensive pesticides.

“For some crops like soybeans, there are some alternatives, but none of them have quite the broad spectrum of coverage as chlorpyrifos. There are other crops and many specialty crops where there are no alternatives,” according to Kieffer.

EPA could still appeal the Eighth Circuit ruling, but AFB’s Cushman is hoping otherwise; “Hopefully the EPA will realize it messed up. The court found it messed up, we’ve been telling them they messed up, here, and just agree to go ahead and allow these products on the market, again.”

Until then, Cushman says producers will continue being forced to use alternatives that may be less effective and cost more.