Development of pesticide spray drift regulations continues to be a challenge for the Environmental Protection Agency, says Stephen Johnson, assistant administrator for the agency's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.

“We hope you'll help us figure it out,” he told members of CropLife America and the California Plant Health Association at their joint annual meetings at Palm Desert, Calif. “How do you assess spray drift? We've been grappling with that issue and the engineering issues associated with it. When it came time to determine what to put on a label, the suggestions were all over the place.”

Some, Johnson said, contended there should be no spray drift, period — that “if one nanogram of pesticide drifts one millimeter from its intended target, that's a violation of the label.”

Then, there were the “technocrats, who came up with technically accurate labeling, but unfortunately everyone said, ‘We can't live with this.’”

The goal, he said, is to develop a label that can give “advice and counsel to product managers so we can achieve consistency, and have labels that are clear and regulations that are enforceable.

“A lot of people are working on it, including the states and various commodity organizations. What we'd hope is that state officials will recommend language that meets these goals, but thus far that hasn't been achieved.”

As labels come under review for final changes under Food Quality Protection Act assessments, “the language by the technocrats is causing concern,” Johnson said, “and we need to be able to address this issue.

“We hope the industry can get its collective act together with the states and make recommendations to us. We're on no schedule, we're facing no court order — we just want to come up with something that makes sense. There are a lot of bright minds working on it, and they should be able to come up with something.”

hbrandon@primediabusiness.com