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Use of atrazine at stake

House members push back on EPA’s atrazine change while grower groups encourage farmers to make comments to EPA.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

August 25, 2022

4 Min Read
Spraying corn field

In a rare move, the Environmental Protection Agency has extended the comment period in their review of atrazine — one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. — after reopening its finalized registration earlier this month. EPA is now accepting comments through Oct. 7 from the original Sept. 6 date, giving farmers more time to share their thoughts and urge the agency to follow science in its decision making.

Atrazine is an herbicide used to protect corn, sorghum, sugarcane, and a variety of other crops from damaging weeds. For nearly 60 years, atrazine has been a reliable and proven herbicide for effective and efficient sustainable farming practices. However, the use of atrazine is at stake, a product included in more than 90 herbicide products across the U.S., and one that is utilized on 75% of U.S. sorghum acres.

Reps. Tracey Mann, R-Kan., and Vicki Hartzler, R-Mo., led 90 of their House colleagues in pushing back on the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed revisions to the interim decision for atrazine, a critical crop protection tool.

On June 30, 2022, the EPA released proposed revisions to the previous atrazine decision. The revisions included new labeling requirements and what the legislators says is an “unworkable list of mitigation measures that producers would be required to implement when using atrazine.”

Under the EPA proposal, restrictions for all atrazine uses will include:

  • No application on saturated fields.

  • No application when it is raining or when rain is likely to occur in the next 48 hours.

  • No aerial application.

  • Reduced corn and sorghum application rate to 2 pounds per acre, per year.

Corn and sorghum growers would also have to use additional mitigation measures, the type and frequency of which would be determined by watershed location.

Farmers know firsthand the importance crop protection tools such as atrazine to help them provide the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food, fiber, and fuel supply in the world. “This decision, which was based on invalid studies and questionable conclusions, contradicts previous scientific evidence and will have widespread impacts on the use and effectiveness of atrazine,” the legislators explain in a statement. 

Related: Atrazine again under EPA’s microscope

“We are alarmed by the agency’s departure from sound science by changing the concentration equivalent level of concern, and also with the mitigation measures in the proposed revisions," the members wrote. “We know that the EPA asked the USDA to consult on a proposed ‘picklist’ of mitigation measures a producer would be required to implement when using atrazine; however, it is abundantly clear that the EPA did not incorporate any of USDA’s feedback in these revisions.”

Among other requests, the letter asks EPA to submit their proposed revisions for atrazine for a formal review by a panel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

“We believe that food security is national security,” the letter concludes. “Crop protection tools registered through FIFRA are vital to the sustainability, efficiency, and effectiveness of our nation’s food supply, which is why the integrity of a science-driven FIFRA process should not be undermined.”

“The continued availability of atrazine is absolutely critical to the success of Kansas farms," says Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts. "The EPA’s recent proposal breaks with more than six decades of consensus about the safe use of atrazine to benefit crop production, including the implementation of conservation tillage and no-till practices to conserve soil, preserve and increase nutrients, improve water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I encourage the EPA to refrain from imposing strict concentration standards that limit how I can use this environmentally beneficial crop technology.”

This effort is also supported by Kansas Grain Sorghum, Kansas Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers’ Association, American Sugar Cane League, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Florida Sugar Cane League, Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers, and Minnesota Crop Production Retailers.

Comment now

“Farmers need clarity and consistency from the EPA,” says Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau senior conservation and regulatory relations specialist. “It is critical for our members to make their voices heard and tell the EPA hear how devastating these changes would be.”

You don't have time to wait. The National Sorghum Producers encouraged its members to take two minutes to fill out the comment form and join them in stopping EPA from limiting access to atrazine.

Michigan Farm Bureau is encouraging its members to take action by visiting or texting the phrase MICROPS to the number 52886.

The National Corn Growers Association is also encouraging farmers to submit comments to EPA here, and advocates are encouraged to include information about how the proposed level of concern would impact their individual operations.

“Corn growers know the value of atrazine, and it is time again that we tell EPA the value of this product to our operations,” says Iowa farmer and NCGA President Chris Edgington. “In 2016, we came together to submit 10,000 comments to the EPA, and we need that same momentum again.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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