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Ag inputs getting more expensive

Agriculture and agribusiness, in which our industry is a major player, is constantly beset with major problems that affect our survival.

Continuing low commodity prices is the major concern of nearly all. Constantly beset by the vagaries of weather, world commodity prices and the ability to export drastically affect agricultural profitability.

When the producer's ability to obtain a fair return on his investment is limited, his only recourse is to attempt, at least temporarily, to reduce his input costs. Consequently, this reduction usually results in reduction of sales by agribusiness - including our industry.

What most farmers are beginning to realize and what our industry sees every day is the effect of an increasingly drastic regulatory climate on the cost of our portion of "ag inputs" - crop protection chemicals. The cost of bringing newer products to market has gone up exponentially.

The additional testing and new hoops to jump through under the FQPA not only delay the approval process for new products but, even worse, can increase the cost of keeping existing products on the market. This can reach the point where the manufacturer in many cases simply cannot see a profit in continuing to attempt to keep the product on the market.

Many of these products as the readers well know are time tested, safe and effective and relatively cheap old standbys.

Just as with the chlorinated hydrocarbons, for all practical purposes, most of the organophosphate based technology is rapidly disappearing. Look at parathion, diazinon, and chloryphorus, just to mention a few products that once had major sales.

Certainly "gene technology" has had its effect also, but this only makes it more difficult for a manufacturer to justify the regulatory costs of supporting a product which has a reduced sales base.

We must ask ourselves - why do good, safely used over long years, effective products have to be forced off the market in the name of protecting the environment and the current buzz word "protecting the children"?

What has changed in the intervening years since these products were approved for use? Are they less safe, less efficient - or just sacrificial lambs in the name of environmental progress and changed laws?

Non-point source pollution, i.e., ag run-off, spray drift (off target air deposition) will run a close second to the preceding in point of focus. Environmentalists will also attempt to link endangered species requirements with these, plus further efforts to require pesticides legally employed under FIFRA to be subject to Clean Water Act requirements and prohibition.

We must make increased efforts to be even better stewards of our products and their uses so as to minimize risks to others. We must also insist on having reasonable, not impossible, safety standards. We do not and never will live in a risk-free society.

What agriculture and its agribusiness companion really need is fair prices, fair markets and fair regulation. Let us hope that a "new administration" and new congress will make this a prime goal.

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