Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) – pesticide use tolerances set by countries and even private buyers for imported food products – are an issue that is of increasing importance and complexity among the 150 partner countries that buy U.S. food products.

Farm Press/Penton Ag Media has developed and launched its 20th online continuing education course for licensed agricultural professionals, “The ABCs of MRLs.” The course is sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection, a major supporter of the Farm Press/Penton Ag Media online CEU program. It is the fifth DuPont-sponsored course.

“DuPont continues to be a great partner with Farm Press/Penton in sponsoring online CEUs,” says Penton Publisher Greg Frey. ”They provide an invaluable service to pest control advisers and other licensed agricultural professionals with their support of these online courses.”

More than 23,000 courses have been completed in just over five years since the first Farm Press CEU went online.

The new course is particularly timely since it focuses on world markets for American agriculture. Exports account for 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. farm and ranch production each year. For some crops, such as rice and California almonds, the percentage of exports is much higher.

“MRLs are an industry-wide priority; understanding how they impact daily field operations for everyone is a necessity,” said Lars Swanson, Rynaxypyr product manager. “That is why DuPont is committed to help bring an understanding to how companies set and establish global MRLs. We are also working closely with regulatory agencies around the world so that growers who use DuPont products can be confident about creating new market opportunities for their crops.”

Shipping to world markets is becoming more complex, with countries adopting their own residue level tolerances, much like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, many countries won’t accept EPA tolerances for pesticides applied in the U.S. and want to establish their own. This forces many chemical companies to go through the time-consuming and expensive registration process in many different nations.

The issue has become a daily one for growers and pest control advisers who have to make decisions on which crop protection chemicals to use based on whether the country or customer likely to receive the crop has an MRL for those chemicals. If there is no MRL, or growers and their crop consultants aren’t sure if there is an MRL, the chemistry isn’t used. Failure to meet MRL requirements could result in the loss of shipments and customers, and considerable expense.

MRLs were the subject of at least four presentations at the annual California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) at Reno, Nev., attended by 1,200 California-licensed PCAs.

Many MRLs are available to American shippers through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and other widely recognized multi-country reporting systems such as CODEX. But, individual countries or regions like the United Kingdom don’t recognize the multi-country MRL reporting systems and have their own lists.

These issues and many other elements of MRL requirements are in the new course, which has been accredited for continuing education hours by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the Arizona Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture.

A number of regulatory experts from various commodity groups contributed information for the course, including Dr. Gabriele Ludwig, associate director, Environmental Affairs Almond Board of California; Marcy Martin, director of trade services, California Grape & Tree Fruit League; Richard Carver, registration manager, DuPont Agricultural Products; Dr. Lori Berger, executive director, California Specialty Crops Council; and Cindy Baker, Exigent/Gowan Co.

“The support of the industry in developing this course was invaluable,” says Farm Press’ Greg Frey. “All who reviewed the course have endorsed its content.”

The course is accessible at www.pentonag.com/mrl. It is also accessible via the Western Farm Press Web site, westernfarmpress.com.