EPA has restricted a rule to protect people from pesticide spraying by establishing a 25-foot “Application Exclusion Zone” for all ground spray applications and limiting AEZ’s to the boundaries of the agricultural establishment.

The agency will also exempt farm owners and family members from the requirements to stay out of the spray area as long as they take shelter in the area during the application of pesticides. AEZ is an area where workers and others cannot be when pesticides are being sprayed outdoors.

EPA said it was making the changes, which had been opposed by farm worker advocacy organizations and some state attorneys general, to “clarify and simplify” the requirements, which some state regulatory agencies had said were difficult to enforce.

Farmworker Justice, which had expressed concern about the proposal, said it would not be able to respond immediately to the rule but would have a statement “soon”.

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will announce the changes at a North Carolina farm on Thursday. “The changes in the EZ requirements make it easier to protect people near our nation’s farms, while improving the viability of these provisions for farm owners and protecting the environment,” he said in a news release.

The EPA also said it would allow applications that were suspended to resume once people have left an SEZ, and would not require employers and farm handlers to comply with the requirement to suspend applications because non-employees “are in an area subject to an easement that prevents the agricultural employer from temporarily excluding those people from that area.

“The AEZ will be 25 feet in all directions for pesticide applications to the ground when sprayed from a height greater than 12 inches, and 100 feet in all directions for aerial, air-blast, air-powered, fumigant, smoke, mist and fog applications,” EPA said in a “Pesticide Program Update” issued Thursday.

A 2015 guideline originally based the need for a 25-foot or 100-foot exclusion zone on spray quality and droplet size, with a 100-foot EZ for land-based applications of “fine or very fine droplets” of pesticides.

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