South East Farm Press Logo

11 counties get herbicides back, and it’s no small thing

The two endangered salamanders live in 11 counties in south-central Georgia. Farmers in those counties couldn’t legally use a certain herbicide for a time.

Brad Haire, Executive Editor

April 12, 2024

2 Min Read
tractor spraying soybean field
fotokostic/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Here’s a story about how cooperation and science-backed decision-making helped some farmers regain something important and two endangered salamanders remain protected. 

The two endangered salamanders live in 11 counties in south-central Georgia. Because of that, farmers in those counties couldn’t legally use an herbicide for a time. But state and federal agencies worked together.  

Due to heightened judicial attention, the Endangered Species Act is now a major factor in the EPA’s regulatory decision making. The initial 11-county restriction was to protect the two salamanders under the ESA. 

In 2022, EPA renewed the labels for Enlist One and Enlist Duo herbicides, but due to the salamanders, Enlist Duo was not allowed to be used over the top of tolerant corn, cotton and soybeans in those Georgia counties. 

“Those familiar with the inevitable interaction of the Endangered Species Act and pesticide use at that time quickly connected the dots of how this process could have monumental impact on a farmer’s pest management toolbox, regardless of the state in which the farm operates,” said Stanley Culpepper, a University of Georgia Extension weed specialist who has spearheaded research and initiatives in Georgia to help bring EPA into ESA compliance without jeopardizing farmers’ access to needed chemistries to produce sustainable crops. 

Fast forward two years to January 2024, new Enlist labels were approved by EPA in the final step of the ESA consultation process with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. This approval removed the prohibitions in all currently prohibited Georgia counties. The labels still include mitigation measures to make sure the herbicides remain on target and stay on target. The county-wide restrictions preventing its use in those 11 Georgia counties have been removed, along with counties in many other states. 

“When considering that over 1,100 active ingredients still face regulatory uncertainty regarding the Endangered Species Act, this success story may be small, but it highlights the importance of all stakeholders, including farmers, to be engaged throughout the critically important process that will directly influence every single pesticide applicator at some point,” Culpepper said. 

And that’s a positive direction for growers and ESA compliance. 

EPA’s lifting of the ban was in part due to a collaborative project underway in Georgia for the last two years, which includes a science-backed educational effort with UGA Extension, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, EPA, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, farmers and other important industry groups and manufacturers. 

“(The reapproval of Enlist Duo) is a homerun for science and this cooperation across multiple agencies. The goal to increase the quantity and quality of information available for the EPA and other services to make better-informed decisions has proven to be fruitful,” Culpepper said. 

About the Author(s)

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like