Companies Slow to Market Jointly Labeled Chemicals

Pesticides and herbicides can be jointly labeled in the U.S. and Canada, potentially saving millions for U.S. farmers - once more chemicals start using the process.

Published on: Jun 27, 2007

More than three months after regulators in the U.S. and Canada announced pesticides and herbicides in the two countries could be jointly labeled, only two farm chemicals are using the process. "Given we've been working on this for 10 years, there's a lot of frustration," North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson says. The farm chemical industry sees progress on the labeling, which is voluntary.

"We think that the work that has been done so far and the 13 products that are done or in process represent substantial actual progress that benefits growers on both sides of the border," says Jay Vroom, president and chief executive of CropLife America, a pesticide trade association based in Washington, D.C. American farmers have long pushed to import chemicals from Canada, saying they often are cheaper north of the border. But so-called "harmonization" bills failed in Congress.

In March, environmental regulators in the U.S. and Canada announced the first North American Free Trade Agreement label, for a herbicide marketed as Far-GO in the U.S. and as Avadex in Canada. It can be used for weed control for a wide range of crops, from wheat to sugar beets. Under the NAFTA label, a company can get one regulatory label for a product, rather than acquiring labels in both the U.S. and Canada.

A 2005 study by North Dakota State University researchers found that U.S. farmers could save $178 million a year if they have access to pesticides on the Canadian side of the border that are similar in composition to those on the U.S. side. Officials say NAFTA labels can benefit chemical companies by eliminating the expense of different packaging and labeling in the two countries.

Since the March announcement, only one other product besides the herbicide has received a NAFTA label: Gavel, a potato fungicide made by Dow Chemical, according to Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Enesta Jones. "We were hoping there would be more products labeled by now," says Byron Richards, a director with the North Dakota Grain Growers Association. "But that doesn't mean we're not making progress."

Source: Associated Press