U.S., Industry Fights Hard For Methyl Bromide

November 30, 2006 - 17:30

U.S. agriculture held its own in a bitter fight at this year's Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (the international treaty governing methyl bromide), Oct. 30- Nov. 3, 2006, in New Delhi, India. With strong support from many agriculture industry representatives, including Michelle Castellano, Mellano & Company in San Luis Rey, Calif., the U.S. State Department was able to fight efforts by the European Union and others to dramatically cut back the U.S. request for "critical uses" of methyl bromide for 2008. The final amount of methyl bromide approved continues to decline, so the hard-fought battle at this year's meeting represented a victory on behalf of U.S. growers.

Each year, the U.S. government must submit a formal "Critical Use Nomination" outlining in great detail the amounts of methyl bromide that growers will need for the coming year. The U.S. nomination (and nominations of other countries) are then reviewed by two of the Treaty's working committees. This year, as in previous years, significant cuts to the U.S. nomination were recommended by the committees, who again failed to provide any scientific rationale for the recommended cuts.

The meeting of all signatory nations in New Delhi was the only opportunity for the U.S. government, supported by members of the U.S. agricultural industry, to provide forceful arguments against the committee recommendations so that when the countries put the matter to a final vote, an amount closer to the original U.S. request would be approved.

Ultimately, the parties approved the U.S. nomination at 21 percent of the baseline (baseline being 1991 total usage). The original amount requested by the U.S. was 23 percent of baseline — already a reduction from the amount requested by growers, including floriculture growers, in their original submissions to the EPA.

Significantly, however, the parties also allowed most of that amount to come from new production, rather than from existing chemical inventories. The industry argued, successfully, that drawing down the inventories to a low level would put U.S. agriculture in a crisis position.

The Crop Protection Coalition, a coalition of agricultural organizations including the Society Of American Florists, said, "Given the ultimate objective of the Montreal Protocol to eliminate the use of methyl bromide this must be considered a positive outcome for methyl bromide users ... The stance taken by the E.U. was quite adamant, and a great deal of pressure was brought to bear by the various environmental groups."

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