California will ban the sale of a widely used agricultural pesticide starting early next year, citing links between chlorpyrifos and brain damage and other health problems in children.
State officials on Wednesday announced the ban, which will kick in on Feb. 6. Farmers will not be allowed to possess or use the pesticide after Dec. 31, 2020.
“For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California.”
The ban is part of an agreement between the state’s pesticide regulation department and pesticide manufacturers. Under the deal, the state will provide $5.6 million in grants to help the manufacturers develop alternatives to chlorpyrifos.
“The swift end to the sale of chlorpyrifos protects vulnerable communities by taking a harmful pesticide off the market,” California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld said in a statement. “This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices.”
Corteva Agriscience, a pesticide manufacturer listed in the agreement, said California has implemented “uniquely challenging” regulations for the pesticide. Under the new agreement, a few products that apply the pesticide in granular form – instead of spray – will be allowed to remain on the market.
“These new, novel requirements have made it virtually impossible for growers to use this important tool in their State,” the company said in a statement. “We have successfully negotiated a settlement for specific products and uses named in the Accusation, which is in the best interest of the affected growers.”
This isn’t the first time California has targeted the chemical, which is used to control pests on alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts. In 2015, it designated chlorpyrifos a “restricted material” that requires county permits to use. In 2018, it declared the pesticide a toxic air contaminant.
The Trump administration has reversed steps from the Obama administration to ban the pesticide in 2015.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, which supported the Trump administration’s move to not ban the pesticide, criticized California’s decision.
“California’s ban on chlorpyrifos will leave farmers without a vital crop protection tool as there is currently no equivalent to chlorpyrifos on the market,” the lobbying group said in a statement. “The decision to ban chlorpyrifos will do little to achieve supposed health outcomes and instead will cause farmers to bear the brunt of poor decision making based on data that lacks scientific integrity.”
California uses roughly 20% of all the chlorpyrifos employed in the U.S., according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group.
“While the Trump administration relentlessly fights to keep it legal, California is taking a stand and saying it has no place in our fields or on our food,” NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman said in a statement. “We will continue to push EPA to extend these protections beyond California’s borders to people nationwide.”