U.S. coalition objects to phosphine restrictions

by Teresa Acklin
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   WASHINGTON — A coalition led by leading grain-based foods trade associations is moving aggressively to head off new proposals that would sharply curb the use of phosphine as a grain and milling fumigant in the United States.

   In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, the coalition, coordinated by the North American Millers' Association, North American Export Grain Association and National Grain and Feed Association, raised serious concerns about the regulations proposed recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

   Specifically, the coalition objected to requirements that would sharply reduce the exposure standard for phosphine, establish a radius in residential areas within which fumigation and aeration would be prohibited and require “unnecessary and unwarranted” notification of local residents and authorities prior to fumigation.

   James A. Bair, vice-president of the North American Millers' Association, said initial data indicated that 75% of flour mills in the United States would no longer be able to use phosphine as a fumigant under the new proposal. “What's ironic is that phosphine is the E.P.A. alternative to methyl bromide (which the agency had moved to phase out),” Mr. Bair said. “It seems that the right hand doesn't know what the left one is doing within the agency.”