Based on the review, the MDA identified several opportunities for action to minimize the impact of neonicotinoids on pollinators.
1. Action: Create a Treated Seed Program (Requires Legislative Action)
Currently, the State does not have the authority to regulate the sale and use of pesticide treated seeds; they are considered to be “Treated Articles” and not pesticides. Treated articles that meet USEPA’s exemption criteria are not subject to USEPA or MDA pesticide regulations. The Treated Seed Program will provide the State with the authority to regulate seeds treated with pesticides. The program will also fund research to develop need based recommendations for the use of seed treatments. The program may also require that untreated seeds and seeds treated at lower pesticide application rates are available in the market. The program would be funded through a new pollinator protection account. Creation of such a program will require legislative action. The bill to create treated seed program was introduced in MN legislation in 2017. However, it was not approved.
Seed treatments protect young plants against early-season soil and foliage pests, reduce potential risks to workers, minimize potential runoff to waterways, and lower the overall amount of pesticide usage. However, broad-scale and prophylactic uses of seed treatments with pesticides such as neonicotinoids may increase the risk to the environment and specifically to pollinators. Therefore, it is important that treated seed use decisions be based on the best available science and Minnesota specific conditions. The treated seed program will provide staff and resources to ensure a sound understanding of efficacy of seed treatment rates, scouting techniques, pest pressures, economic thresholds, planting technology differences, etc. In addition, farmers may not have ready access to untreated seed or seed treated at lower pesticide application rates. The MDA will continue to evaluate national and international research for its applicability to Minnesota specific conditions. The MDA will also work with the University of Minnesota and other interested parties to identify the research needs and projects. Appropriate changes will be introduced on the use of treated seeds based on the outcome of research data. The bill to create pollinator protection account was introduced in MN legislation in 2017. However, it was not approved.
2. Action: Create a Dedicated “Pollinator Protection Account” (Requires Legislative Action)
Create a dedicated “Pollinator Protection Account” funded through fees on pesticide treated seeds and on pesticides classified by the USEPA as moderately or highly toxic to pollinators on acute exposure basis. The program will carry out activities related to pollinators including evaluating and supporting research on economic thresholds, developing an educational campaign on use of pesticides, development of stewardship materials, etc. Creation of such an account would require legislative action.
3. Action: Require formal verification of need prior to use of neonicotinoid pesticides, where appropriate
Application requirements restricting foliar application of neonicotinoid pesticide products on pollinator attractive food crops and commercially grown ornamentals while bees are foraging and until flowering is complete already exist on product labels. This includes applications to soybeans, the most important crop for neonicotinoid use in Minnesota. Under these requirements farmers would be able to apply neonicotinoids when the application is needed because of an imminent threat of significant crop loss, consistent with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan, or when a predetermined economic threshold is met. However, what qualifies as an imminent threat or an adequate IPM plan requires further definition for Minnesota specific conditions.
The MDA will work with the University of Minnesota (U of M) and other stakeholders to develop pest thresholds and acceptable IPM criteria that should be used to justify product application before final flowering for those products and crops which currently have these requirements on the label. The MDA will also work with the U of M and other stakeholders to develop need based guidance and acceptable IPM criteria for other significant crop uses of neonicotinoids.
As this criteria is developed there will be an education period where it is widely promoted through multiple channels including pesticide applicator training and in coordination with registrant stewardship and other educational activities.
The MDA will ensure that applications of neonicotinoids are made only when a qualified individual verifies that there is a demonstrated pest problem and there is a need for neonicotinoid pesticide use. The MDA will develop a formal process for verification of need by a trained and approved individual prior to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on crops.
These requirements would be phased in over time as Minnesota specific pest thresholds and similar need based guidance becomes available and would only apply to products and uses which have MDA approved need based guidance for their use.
4. Action: Develop an Educational Campaign for Homeowners and Residential Users of Insecticides
An educational campaign to educate homeowners and other residential users of insecticides would be developed. The campaign will include educational activities to promote appropriate practices for use of all insecticides. Emphasis would be on neonicotinoids. The campaign would be funded through the pollinator protection account.
5. Action: Review Product Labels for Appropriate Use of Neonicotinoids for Homeowners and Residential Users
On an ongoing basis, the MDA will review product labels for appropriate urban and suburban uses and restrictions of neonicotinoids to minimize the impact to pollinators. The MDA in consultation with the U of M and other interested parties would identify products and uses with a high potential for pollinator exposure. The MDA will then work with registrants to make Minnesota specific label changes. For example, registrants may be asked to evaluate and lower neonicotinoid application rates or approved uses for certain pollinator attractive plants. The MDA will also reevaluate appropriate actions following completion of the USEPA neonicotinoid registration review (due for completion in 2017).
6. Action: Develop Minnesota Specific Pollinator Stewardship Materials
MDA would work with pesticide registrants to develop additional stewardship materials and a stewardship program to promote practices targeted at minimizing non-target exposure to pollinators in Minnesota. Separate stewardship material would be developed to address exposure concerns related to:
- Insecticide treated seed
- Agricultural use of soil and foliar applied neonicotinoids
- Home and residential use of neonicotinoids
7. Action: Increase Use Inspections for Insecticides that are Highly Toxic to Pollinators
MDA will increase use inspections for insecticides that are classified as highly toxic to pollinators on acute exposure basis. EPA has added a pollinator protection box to foliar insecticides that are considered highly toxic to pollinators. Increased inspections will increase the attention on concerns for pollinators and will enforce the label requirements related to pollinators. Targeted inspections by the MDA would increase awareness among applicators that language contained in the pollinator protection box is important and product use provisions are being enforced.
8. Action: Review Label Requirements for Individual Neonicotinoid Products
The MDA will review product labels for enforceable language and appropriate requirements. After reviewing and identifying the language steps may be taken to clarify and revise the label language. Some insecticide products that are acutely toxic to pollinators have language that is unclear or may be interpreted as advisory rather than enforceable. The MDA will review label language to ensure that label requirements for neonicotinoid products are appropriate for Minnesota specific conditions and are clear, unambiguous and enforceable.