January 18, 2010

NeCGA, others urge EPA to base atrazine review on science, not politics

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association joined more than 50 other ag groups from across the country in signing a letter clarifying farmers' support for the herbicide atrazine.

The letter was sent to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and was in response to a letter sent a couple of weeks ago by environmental activists claiming that growers opposed the use of atrazine.

“It is truly disheartening when political agendas attempt to overturn scientific process,” the letter from NeCGA and other ag groups said. “Such is the case in the January 5th letter submitted to the EPA by a handful of special interest groups misrepresenting themselves as the voice of the agriculture community in an attempt to negate the overwhelming support and confidence in the herbicide atrazine and to gain media attention for themselves.”

Jere White, executive director of the Kansas corn and grain sorghum growers associations said in a news release that farmers have been involved in EPA’s reviews of atrazine since the mid-1990s. The groups that signed the letter in support of atrazine represent a large number of farmers and agricultural producers.

He said groups signing the letter represent "hundreds of thousands of farmers from Hawaii to Pennsylvania" and that many of the farmer groups have been involved in EPA’s repeated studies and reviews of atrazine for more than 15 years.

"I don’t think the environmental activist groups understand that there are trade-offs," White said. "For example, removing atrazine would actually hinder many of our row crop farmers’ efforts to use conservation no-till and reduced-till practices. Without atrazine, many would have to return to tilling their land, increasing the risk of erosion and runoff.”

The groups signing the letter asked EPA to understand that the majority of farmers support the use of atrazine and asked EPA to use science, not politics, to arrive at a decision on the safety of atrazine.

Here is a portion of the letter:

Our growers have actively participated in the process and supported the safety and scientific approval of atrazine by the EPA over the last fifteen years and three White House Administrations. Mainstream agriculture has participated in every Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) concerning atrazine since the beginning of the Special Review in 1994. As stated clearly to the November 3, 2009 SAP, we strongly believe the scientific weight of evidence, based on EPA's own analysis for decades, shows atrazine to be both safe and effective and that it is the best kind of tool that farmers can have.

We are troubled by the activist forces that seem to be guiding the very intensive and urgent re-evaluation (actually a re-re-evaluation) of atrazine despite its recently completed re-registration, which provided for its continued safe use.

...The benefits of atrazine use to agriculture are well documented and part of existing EPA record. Recent efforts to downplay these benefits in the media are simply the wishes of activists who suggest they have better insight on producing abundant food, fuel and fiber from their comfortable desk than the farmer who has been doing it all his life. It should be noted that our farmers consider themselves the ultimate conservationists, for without the careful cultivation of their land...their own livelihoods are at risk.

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