FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Office of Communications
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Commends EPA's Proposed Updates to AEZ Requirements
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed updates to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) regulation targeted to enhance the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) provisions. The proposal aims to improve enforceability for Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) regulators, maintain public health protections of farm workers and agricultural communities and reduce regulatory burdens for Georgia farmers.
"I applaud EPA's action to provide growers relief from a very cumbersome requirement by proposing changes to the Worker Protection Standard consistent with our remarks submitted during a 2017 comment period," said Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. "Our growers go to great lengths to comply with the WPS only to be frustrated with its complexity. Updating and simplifying the Application Exclusion Zone provision within this rule will strengthen enforceability for state regulators and better support outreach and education efforts by research partners, all while reducing regulatory burdens for our farmers."
Per an EPA press release, the federal agency has proposed the following updates:
- Modify the AEZ so it is applicable and enforceable only on a farm owner's property, where a farm owner can lawfully exercise control over employees and bystanders who could fall within the AEZ. As currently written, the off-farm aspect of this provision has proven very difficult for state regulators to enforce. These proposed changes would enhance both enforcement and implementation of the AEZ for state regulators and farm owners, respectively. Off-farm bystanders would still be protected from pesticide applications thanks to the existing "do not contact" requirement that prohibits use in a manner that would contact unprotected individuals.
- Exempt immediate family members of farm owners from all aspects of the AEZ requirement. This will allow farm owners and their immediate family members to decide whether to stay in their homes or other enclosed structures on their property during certain pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining.
- Add clarifying language that pesticide applications that are suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ may be resumed after those individuals have left the AEZ.
- Simplify the criteria for deciding whether pesticide applications are subject to the 25- or 100-foot AEZ. The EPA is accepting public comment on the proposed modifications for 90 days after publishing the proposal to the Federal Register. For additional information, please visit www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps.
About the GDA The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is the voice of the state’s agriculture community. The department's mission is to provide excellence in services and regulatory functions, to protect and promote agriculture and consumer interests, and to ensure an abundance of safe food and fiber for Georgia, America, and the world by using state-of-the-art technology and a professional workforce. For more information, visit www.agr.georgia.gov.