By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program
When the U.S. EPA approved the seven-year renewal registration for Corteva’s Enlist One and Enlist Duo on January 12, 2022, it also prohibited use of the herbicide in 217 counties across the country. Twelve Ohio counties were on that list, preventing farmers in Athens, Butler, Fairfield, Guernsey, Hamilton, Hocking, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Vinton, and Washington counties from using the herbicides. Welcome news for those farmers came on Tuesday, when the EPA announced that it is removing the restricted use for all Ohio counties.
The prohibition against using Enlist Duo’s use was because Corteva did not propose its use in all U.S. counties in the reregistration, many of which had endangered species and critical habitat that could be impacted by the herbicides. The 12 Ohio counties that were not submitted for use by Corteva are home to the American Burying Beetle, which is on the Endangered Species list. But in February, Corteva submitted a label amendment that proposed use of Enlist One and Enlist Duo in 128 of the previously restricted counties, including Ohio’s 12 counties.
Upon receiving Corteva’s amendment, federal law requires EPA to complete an “effects determination” to assess potential effects on the endangered species in the previously restricted counties. The assessment included reviewing updated range maps for the endangered species and their habitats that were provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Range maps help identify the overlap between the American Burying Beetle’s location and growing areas for corn, soybeans, and cotton where Enlist might be applied. Based on the maps, the agency determined that the beetle was not present in 10 of the previously restricted counties and had less than a 1% overlap with crop areas in another 118 counties.
EPA also examined whether there would be direct or indirect effects on other listed endangered species or habitat in those counties. The black-footed ferret was the only specifies identified in field areas in the 128 counties, and 15 other listed specifies and three critical habitats were determined to exist off of the field areas. But the EPA found that the Enlist label restrictions would address any concerns with these additional species and habitats.
After completing its effects determination and review of the amendment, the EPA concluded that “the use of these products — with the existing label requirements in place to mitigate spray drift and pesticide runoff—will not likely jeopardize the American Burying Beetle or other listed species and their critical habitats in these counties.” Similarly, EPA determined that six Minnesota counties that are home to the endangered Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake were also removed from the prohibited list and approved for Enlist use.
EPA noted the importance of following the label restrictions for the herbicides, particularly in areas where endangered species reside. The new label approved by the EPA in January contains changes to the previous label. According to Ohio State University weed scientist Mark Loux, those changes include a revised application cutoff for soybeans, “through R1” that replaces “up to R2” on previous labels, and the addition of a slew of spray nozzles to the approved nozzle list. Enlist users should take care to review these new provisions. As required by EPA, Corteva provides educational tools on using Enlist, available at https://www.enlist.com/en/enlist-360-training.html.
If you’re interested in reading more about the EPA’s registration review on Enlist One and Enlist Duo, the agency’s docket on the registration is available at: https://www.regulations.gov/docket/EPA-HQ-OPP-2021-0957/document. The amendment letter for the recent removal of prohibitions on certain counties is at: https://www.regulations.gov/document/EPA-HQ-OPP-2021-0957-0020.