Focus on farms

California, which grows more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, has squared off against Trump administration efforts to weaken pesticide rules repeatedly over the past four years. Now Biden has stepped into the middle of that fight. 

Among the moves California has opposed is the Trump administration’s decision to reject the Obama EPA’s recommendations to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. Chlorpyrifos has been shown to harm brain development in children. Trump’s EPA proposed new safety measures for use of the pesticide, but critics say they leave children unprotected.   

California announced in 2019 that it would eliminate chlorpyrifos from nearly all agricultural uses starting this year. But children in California could still eat residue of the pesticide on food imported from other states, and environmental advocates urge a nationwide ban.

Also the Trump administration rolled back a rule requiring a safety radius of up to 100 feet around pesticide application equipment aimed at limiting farmworker poisonings. The Trump administration cut off the safety zone at a farm’s borders, and California has sued.

Biden’s campaign promised to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure. And, in a slew of day one instructions, the president directed his administration to review the Trump EPA’s chlorpyrifos decisions and the pesticide spraying safety zone, which could mean stricter rules for agricultural chemicals ahead.