Third Quarter 2023 Regulatory Comment Review
There has been no slowdown in responding to regulatory proposals. In this quarter, you will see a couple of comment letters responding to state-level issues. Below is a summary of the regulatory dockets AZFB responded to during the third quarter of 2023 (July -September).
Environmental Protection Agency – Draft Occupational and Residential Risk Assessment for Dimtheyl Tetrachloroterephthalate (DCPA) – AZFB provided comments to EPA highlighting the important role DCPA plays as a herbicide in the production of certain crops in Arizona, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other Cole crops, as well as onions. AZFB’s comments urge the EPA to carefully consider the benefits of DCPA as it moves forward with this registration review.
Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) – Environmental and Plant Services Division proposed rulemaking to modify administrative rules under Title 3, Chapter 3, Articles 1 through 5 and 7 through 10 – AZFB provided comments to AZDA noting support for rule modifications, in particular those which modify current rules to comply with federal requirements that must be in place for AZDA to maintain primacy over federal programs related to pesticides and worker protection standards.
Bureau of Land Management – Conservation and Landscape Health – BLM’s proposal included new regulations, including applying land health standards to all BLM lands, elevating “conservation” to a “use” under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLMPA), and prioritizing the designation and protection of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). AZFB’s comments strongly opposed BLM’s proposal to define conservation as use and stated our serious concerns with proposed conservation leases. The comments also noted concerns with BLM’s process in developing the proposed rule, as well as their determination that the rule qualified as a categorical exclusion and is not a major rule. Additionally, AZFB joined a coalition letter with 57 other organizations that explained in greater detail issues and concerns with BLM’s proposed rule.
Environmental Protection Agency – Vulnerable Listed Species Pilot Project: Proposed Mitigations, Implementation Plan, and Possible Expansion - The EPA’s Vulnerable Species Pilot describes how the agency proposes to mitigate pesticide exposure to 27 vulnerable listed species. Although the stated 27 species, including their habitat or range, are not present in Arizona, we are concerned with several elements of the proposal should this pilot be expanded in the future to other species present in Arizona. AZFB’s comments addressed the following concerns: mitigation measures, application rate reductions, and the requirement to coordinate with Fish and Wildlife Services prior to application in locations where species have designated critical habitat or range.
Bureau of Reclamation – Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Notice to Solicit Comments on the Development of Post-2026 Operational Guidelines and Strategies for Lake Powell and Lake Mead – AZFB’s comments emphasized that BOR’s EIS analysis include a comprehensive and refined analysis of impacts to agricultural production and its inclusion in the planning discussions. Our comments also advocated that BOR encourage conservation and efficiency measures by all users, augmenting water supplies where feasible, and evaluating increased storage capacity to capture seasonal precipitation in sub-watersheds.
Bureau of Land Management – Solar Variance Application for Chuparosa Solar Project (Navajo County) - AZFB’s comments urged BLM to disapprove the Chuparosa Solar Project that would allow for the siting of a solar installation on grazing allotments in Navajo County. The proposed solar project would take valuable agricultural land out of production, as well as negatively impact allotments with significant ranch infrastructure.
Fish and Wildlife Service – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations Pertaining to Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (4(d) Rule) - AZFB’s comments supported the comments developed by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC), of which AFBF is a member. We concurred with AFBF and NESARC regarding concerns and opposition to reinstating the blanket 4(d) rule. Under the proposed rule, the practice where the FWS promulgates appropriate regulations that put in place prohibitions, protections, or restrictions tailored specifically to the threatened species would be replaced with the blanket 4(d) rule.
Fish and Wildlife Service/National Marine Fisheries Service – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to Regulations for Interagency Cooperation – AZFB’s comments supported the more technical comments developed by AFBF and NESARC. Our comments addressed changes that would prolong the approval of projects and opposed changes to environmental baseline provisions and elements of Reasonable and Prudent Measures.
Fish and Wildlife Service/National Marine Fisheries Service – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat - AZFB’s comments supported the more technical comments developed by AFBF and NESARC. The proposed rule addresses elements of the ESA related to listing, delisting, and reclassifying species, as well as designating critical habitat. Our comments opposed a number of elements in the proposal, including restoring the phrase “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination; the Service’s interpretation of “foreseeable future;” changing delisting criteria and broadening the approach to designating critical habitat.
United States Department of Agriculture, Risk Management Agency – Request for Information and Stakeholder Listening Sessions on Prevented Planting
– AZFB’s comments supported the comments and concerns shared by individual members during RMA’s Listening Session in Maricopa, AZ. Of significant concern was the 1 in 4 rule, as well as using the base harvest price as opposed to projected prices, reinstating the Prevented Planting buy-up 10% option, and expanding eligible crops to include alfalfa. A thank you to the Arizona Cotton Growers for sharing information gathered during the Listening Session.
Arizona Farm Bureau staff is continuing to work on additional comment letters due later in September; details of those letters will be shared in the next quarterly update article.
If you come across an issue that you feel is important that Arizona Farm Bureau engages in, please do not hesitate to reach out to staff to make sure it is also on our radar.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the October issue of Arizona Agriculture