Losing access to the herbicide atrazine would be detrimental to both the farm economy and the environment, while setting a dangerous precedent for the future of crop management tools, National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors member Jim Zimmerman told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today at a field hearing on the impact of federal regulation on agriculture.
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 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. Studies suggest that losing atrazine could cost corn farmers up to $59 per acre – or up to $2.5 billion to the corn industry.
Like many farmers, Zimmerman said he is frustrated that while the law requires the EPA to base its decisions on science, the Agency appears to be ignoring scientific evidence on atrazine.
“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.
“The cornerstone of our regulatory process must continue to be the best science and data. The credibility of the Agency and the long-term sustainability of U.S. agriculture depend on it.”
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.