Losing access to the herbicide atrazine would be detrimental to both the farm economy and the environment. It sets a dangerous precedent for the future of crop management tools, Jim Zimmerman, National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors member, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this week at a field hearing on the impact of federal regulations on agriculture.
“Atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in conservation tillage systems. Without atrazine, farmers would have to use higher quantities of other herbicides that are less effective while increasing tillage and threatening soil health and nutrients,” said Zimmerman, who farms corn, soybeans, and wheat in Rosendale, Wisconsin.
Conservation tillage is a farming method that leaves stubble and residue from the previous year’s crop on the field, to cover the soil’s surface. Conservation tillage farming practices offer many environmental benefits, including protecting the soil from water and wind erosion, conserving moisture, reducing runoff, and improving wildlife habitat – all while reducing the amount of labor, fuel, and machinery used on a farm.
“This all impacts the bottom line” (of a farming operation), Zimmerman told lawmakers.
A 2012 economic analysis by the University of Chicago found that farming without atrazine could cost corn farmers up to $59 per acre – or up to $2.5 billion to the corn industry
That’s a staggering cost at a time when net farm income has already declined 55% over the past 2 years, according to USDA figures — and one that’s bound to have repercussions across the entire agriculture industry
Atrazine has been a mainstay of corn, sorghum, and sugar cane farmers for more than 50 years for its proven control of a broad range of weeds that waste water and nutrients. Some of the most destructive weeds are resistant to other pesticides, but not to atrazine. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency released its draft ecological risk assessment for atrazine, including recommendations that would result in a de facto ban on the popular herbicide.
“Atrazine has been used in this country for more than 50 years. During that time, more than 7,000 scientific studies have been conducted on the safety of this herbicide to both the environment and to humans. The evidence overwhelmingly confirms atrazine is safe,” Zimmerman told lawmakers. If EPA enacts a de facto ban on atrazine despite such strong evidence demonstrating its safety, all crop protection tools are at risk, he explained.
Wesley Spurlock, a farmer from Stratford, Texas, and First Vice President of the National Corn Growers Association commented that “Farmers have been tightening their belts the last couple years, and we’ve seen those ripple effects throughout our rural communities.”
“Implement dealers sell less equipment, manufacturers scale back production, and agribusinesses lay off employees. We can’t further weaken the farm economy by taking away one of the most effective tools farmers have to combat weeds and grow an abundant crop,” said Spurlock.
Click HERE to read Zimmerman’s full testimony.
Farmers are encouraged to submit comments to the EPA at www.ncga.com/atz. EPA is accepting comments on the draft ecological risk assessment through October 4.