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EPA urged to delay herbicide registration changes

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Altering herbicide registrations this late in the season would jeopardize farmers’ 2022 planting season, bipartisan letter explains.

As news circulates that the Environmental Protection Agency could be making changes to dicamba registrations as well as other crucial herbicides used by farmers, a bipartisan group of congressional members are asking EPA to delay any changes. In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., led 12 of her colleagues in the U.S. House calling on the agency to delay the implementation of any upcoming herbicide registration revisions at this time.

Citing nationwide supply chain backlogs and heightened consumer demand, the bipartisan group of lawmakers made clear that such a delay would reduce burdensome costs on American farmers and prevent families from seeing further price increases at the grocery store.

“During this period of economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps to restrict the number of herbicides that farmers can utilize could seriously exacerbate existing strains on supply chains, leading to shortages, increased demand for already supply constrained alternatives, price hikes and significant losses directly to farmers who have already purchased herbicide and seed for the upcoming 2022 growing season,” the letter explains. “In addition, these restrictions could force farmers to reduce their use of conservation practices such as no-till agriculture that have been instrumental in reaching regional water quality goals, increasing soil carbon sequestration, improving soil quality and reducing run-off.”

Many farmers have already purchased herbicide and specialized herbicide resistant seeds for the 2022 growing season. “We are deeply concerned that any changes to herbicide registrations for the 2022 growing season will result in significant financial losses for farmers unable to utilize inputs already purchased or ordered,” the letter adds.

Herbicide prices already high

In addition, the legislators expressed concern that there are already significant shortages of other herbicides this year due to drops in production abroad. Three of the major alternative herbicides used over-the-top in row crops – glyphosate, glufosinate, and 2,4-D – have experienced significant price increases this year. According to price benchmarks reported in Sept. 2021, prices are up 130% for glyphosate, 80% for glufosinate and 60% for 2,4-D. These price increases are in addition to the increased costs associated with shipping these materials to U.S. farmers and the rise in prices for other essential inputs such as fertilizer.

The letter also notes concerns of requiring seed changes at this time of the decision-making process. Farmers would not be able to readily acquire enough seeds to accommodate a transition from the existing herbicides in question to alternative companion herbicides before the start of the 2022 growing season. This is especially concerning given the volume of crops that new restrictions could impact.

For example, in 2020, there were approximately 64 million acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton grown nationwide, akin to an area more than twice the size of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A transition of an area of this size would require significant advanced notice under normal conditions, to say nothing of existing stressed supply chains.

“Seed producers and suppliers typically need at least an entire growing season to produce enough seed to meet a surge in demand for alternative seed types of this immense size,” the letter says.

Agricultural groups were quick to praise the letter as they too have voiced concerns about any new herbicide restrictions paired with the already tight supply constraints.

“We are very concerned with any new restrictions from EPA that would undermine use of the limited tools growers can access under already-strained supply chains,” says Kevin Scott, South Dakota soybean farmer and president of the American Soybean Association. “If EPA regulatory actions cause significant shifts in demand for seeds, herbicides, or other inputs for millions of crop acres just a few short months before spring planting, we could see our supply chain situation go from bad to much worse."

Wayne Pryor, president of the Virginia Farm Bureau, adds, during this period of economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps to restrict the number of herbicides that farmers can utilize could seriously exacerbate existing strains on supply chains, leading to shortages, increased demand for already supply-constrained alternatives, price hikes, and significant losses directly to farmers who have already purchased herbicide and seed for the upcoming 2022 growing season.

“We are deeply concerned that any changes to herbicide registrations for the 2022 growing season will result in significant financial losses for farmers unable to utilize inputs already purchased or ordered, posing a serious risk to the food supply and farm viability,” Pryor says.

“With the supply chain issues farmers are facing, producers need certainty now more than ever. Altering herbicide registrations this late in the season would jeopardize farmers’ 2022 planting season, lead to significant losses, increase costs and reduce the use of important conservation practices,” says Kyle Shreve, executive director of the Virginia Agribusiness Council.

Spanberger’s letter was also signed by U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., as well as Reps. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., Jim Costa, D-Calif., Angie Craig, D-Minn., Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich.

TAGS: EPA Herbicide
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