Agricultural Pesticides:

Management Improvements Needed to Further Promote Integrated Pest Management

GAO-01-815: Published: Aug 17, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 2001.

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Chemical pesticides play an important role in providing Americans with an abundant and inexpensive food supply. However, these chemicals can have adverse effects on human health and the environment, and pests continue to develop resistance to them. Sustainable and effective agricultural pest management will require continued development and increased use of alternative pest management strategies, such as integrated pest management (IPM). Some IPM practices yield significant environmental and economic benefits in certain crops, and IPM can lead to better long-term pest management than chemical control alone. However, the federal commitment to IPM has waned over the years. The IPM initiative is missing several key management elements identified in the Government Performance and Results Act. Specifically, no one is effectively in charge of federal IPM efforts; coordination of IPM efforts is lacking among federal agencies and with the private sector; the intended results of these efforts have not been clearly articulated or prioritized; and methods for measuring IPM's environmental and economic results have not been developed. Until these shortcomings are addressed, the full range of potential benefits that IPM can yield for producers, the public, and the environment is unlikely to be realized.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2004, USDA issued its National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) that identifies strategic directions for IPM research, implementation, and measurement. The Road Map notes that the National IPM Program is a broad partnership of governmental institutions working with other stakeholders, and that the leadership, management, and coordination of the Program's IPM efforts occur at various levels. Specifically, the Federal IPM Coordinating Committee, established in Sept. 2003, sets overall goals and priorities for the National IPM Program and provides oversight of related federally-funded programs. And USDA's Regional IPM Centers, created in fiscal year 2000, gather information concerning the status of IPM and help to implement the National IPM Program. Furthermore, the Centers are expected to facilitate the exchange of information and resources to enhance the collaboration and integration of IPM activities among individuals, institutions, states, and regions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should establish effective department-wide leadership, coordination, and management for federally-funded IPM efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Road Map identifies strategic directions for IPM research, implementation, and measurement activities, and acknowledges the need to set goals and objectives and measure progress toward achieving them. According to the Road Map, the goals of the National IPM Program are to improve the economic benefits of adopting IPM practices and to reduce potential risks to human health and the environment caused by pests or by the use of pest management practices. The Program focuses its efforts on three areas--production agriculture, natural resources, and residential and public areas; the Road Map discusses the priorities for each of these areas. The Road Map also discusses potential performance measures for several outcomes, including improving the economic benefits of using IPM practices and reducing the potential risks to human health and the environment from pests and pest-management practices.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should clearly articulate and prioritize the results the department wants to achieve from its IPM efforts, focus IPM efforts and resources on those results, and set measurable goals for achieving those results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action on this recommendation is partially complete. USDA and EPA have formed an IPM Performance Measures Work Group. This group first met in October 2004, and included representatives from (1) USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Economic Research Service; Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program; and regional IPM Centers, and (2) EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs and Strategic Agricultural Initiative Staff. At the intial meeting, the Group identified specific action items to promote closer working relationships. It also started work on developing a standard reporting format or common elements in a standard format that could be used to simplify the task of collecting information on the outcomes of IPM adoption nationwide. A follow-up performance measures workshop is planned for August 2005. In addition, in May 2004, USDA issued its National Road Map for IPM. The Road Map discusses potential performance measures for several desired outcomes, including improving the economic benefits of using IPM practices and reducing the potential risks to human health and the environment from pests and pest-management practices.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should develop a method for measuring the progress of federally-funded IPM activities toward the stated goals of the IPM initiative.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As indicated in USDA's National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management, issued in May 2004, the goals of the National IPM Program are to improve the economic benefits of adopting IPM practices and to reduce potential risks to human health and the environment cause by pests and the use of pest-management practices. In addition, the goal of the Road Map is to increase nationwide communication and efficiency through information exchanges (collaboration) among federal (including USDA and EPA) and non-federal IPM practitioners and service providers. The Road Map identifies strategic directions for IPM research, implementation, and measurement. It notes that IPM's human health and environmental benefits should include reduction in pesticide residues in waters used for human consumption or for recreational purposes, as well as minimizing the effects of pesticides on non-target species. The Road Map also states that IPM helps protect human health through its contribution to food security (a continual supply of affordable, high-quality food) and by reducing the use of pesticides, thereby reducing potential health risks from pesticide residues in food and enhancing farm worker safety. Finally, USDA and EPA are members of the Federal IPM Coordinating Committee and the IPM Performance Measures Work Group, providing further opportunities for collaboration on IPM issues.

    Recommendation: If the Secretary of Agriculture determines that reducing the risks of pesticides to human health and the environment is an intended result of the IPM initiative, the Secretary of Agriculture should also collaborate with the Environmental Protection Agency to focus IPM research, outreach, and implementation on the pest management strategies that offer the greatest potential to reduce the risks associated with agricultural pesticides.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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