The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a move that considerably upsets farmers, is moving to essentially ban the commonly used pesticide atrazine.
The agency is adapting the so-called concentration equivalent level of concern (CE-LOC) for atrazine from 15 parts per billion (which it had set itself in 2020) to 3.4 ppb — meaning that thousands of acres of corn grown in the United States would be out of compliance.
In fact, the 3.4 number is purely symbolic since the chemical becomes ineffective for use at this level, essentially banning it without requiring the EPA to use the word “ban.”
In 2016, when the agency first attempted to introduce this policy, over 10,000 farmers submitted negative comments, as it would fundamentally endanger their bottom line.
The Trump administration had avoided a ban. However, the new administration is dead set on weaponising the EPA for its political ambitions: cutting down on pesticides, even if it is contrary to its own scientific advice.
In fact, the Science Advisory Panel (SAP) of the EPA has alerted its own administrators to the fact that most of the studies it uses to argue for a ban “have weaknesses in their design,” which “render interpreting their results and scoring them for “effects” or “no effect” difficult and subjective.”
One would think that the agency would be partial toward its own scientists, yet it appears it feels more strongly about the priorities set in Washington.
“When you look at all the details, you realize EPA is determined to eliminate the effective use of atrazine. That’s going to cause all kinds of problems, from loss of no-till acres to herbicide resistance in weeds. It will also be a big hit when input costs are already at an all-time high and a major loss for sustainable farming,” analysed Triazine Network Co-Chairman Gary Marshall of Missouri, a group of farmers arguing for the continued use of the product.
Kansas Corn Growers Association CEO Greg Krissek said: “This is clearly a case of agency overreach.”
Corn farmers would lose an estimated $3.1 billion to $4.6 billion per year, which would increase food insecurity and prices at a time when American consumers can afford it the least.
Adding to that, there are good reasons why atrazine, after glyphosate, remains the second most used herbicide in the United States. Consumers save $4.3 billion to almost $6.2 billion annually because the use of the product lowers prices for dairy products, eggs and meat.
Unbeknownst to environmental activists who support the measure, an effective ban of atrazine would harm the environment. The chemical is essential for no-till farming — a technique that eliminates diesel-fueled tillage and avoids soil erosion.
This keeps carbon dioxide emissions in the soil, and wildlife — such as birds — is less often disturbed by farmers passing over their fields. Farmers who support the continuation of atrazine could hit back at these activists with the adage: “I’m on your side, but you’re not.”
Biden’s politicization of the EPA is an unfortunate and misguided attempt to improve sustainability while inherently achieving the opposite. If the agency moves forward with its plans, it would reduce food security, increase prices, and reduce sustainable farming across the country.
The comment period for farmers continues until September 6. Let’s hope a change of mind is possible for regulators when all farmers have had their say.
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