Agricultural producers across the nation and in Santa Barbara County can continue to use chlorpyrifos during the 60 days that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has to comply with a nationwide ban ordered Thursday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

EPA spokesperson Michael Abboud said Friday the agency is "reviewing the (court) decision." He added that data from an epidemiology study conducted by Columbia University used by the court to support the ban "remains inaccessible," which has hindered the agency’s ability to "fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science."

Representatives for the Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties declined to comment on the ruling. Santa Barbara County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Rudy Martel said after the ruling was announced Thursday that the county Agricultural Commissioner's office will continue to follow regulations imposed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).

"Most growers do not use chlorpyrifos," noted California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe, "[and] those that choose to do so follow our rules, which are the strictest in the country."

Environmental groups and farmworker advocates welcomed the ruling, however, calling it a major victory in the push for greater protections for children and other sensitive groups.

"Chlorpyrifos is too often used in agricultural fields next to our children’s schools and in fields where women farmworkers often work during their pregnancies, endangering the health of our community," said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. "Ending its use is a historic victory for protecting the health of farmworkers, pregnant women, and children in our community, as well as the air, water and soil of our region." 

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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