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Act now to protect Atrazine from EPA crosshairs

Atrazine has been on the market for more than 60 years, and no herbicide has been studied more or has a longer safety record. The EPA estimates replacing atrazine would cost farmers more than $40 per acre, and that figure doesn’t account for reduced yields its loss could cause. Image credit: Getty images
Date Posted: August 4, 2022

In an unprecedented move, the EPA is reopening the finalized registration for atrazine — one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States — and proposing major restrictions for its use.

Michigan Farm Bureau is encouraging its members to make their voices heard and urge the EPA to follow science in its decision making.

Messages can be easily sent by visiting bit.ly/22MICrops or texting the phrase MICROPS to the number 52886.

EPA is accepting comments on their draft proposal of the registration, giving farmers a narrow window of time to weigh in on the potentially-devastating changes.

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.

“EPA’s own Science Advisory Panel did not support the studies EPA used to develop this proposed restriction,” said Laura Campbell, senior conservation and regulatory relations specialist. 

“The studies they referenced were too limited, covering only a small number of rivers to represent millions of acres of cropland, and were performed on species that often don’t even live in the usage area.”

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

Those restrictions would apply to more than 3.5 million acres of Michigan field and sweet corn, wheat, Christmas trees, sod, and sorghum, and more — according to data from the Ag Census.

Atrazine has been on the market for more than 60 years, and no herbicide has been studied more or has a longer safety record, according to the Triazine Network — which represents a broad coalition of growers across the nation who rely on atrazine and other triazine herbicides.

“Farmers rely on atrazine’s long-lasting weed control, and it is especially important as an aid to help farmers successfully use sustainable farming practices like conservation tillage and no-till,” the Triazine Network wrote in a statement.

“Placing severe limits on atrazine will have broad implications considering that atrazine is a key component in over 90 herbicide mixtures farmers rely upon.”

The EPA estimates replacing atrazine would cost farmers more than $40 per acre, and that figure doesn’t account for reduced yields its loss could cause. 

“EPA could have reviewed more than 60 years of actual field data from the successful use of this product, but instead developed a proposed restriction that assumes worst-case or even impossible scenarios of exposure for aquatic plants and animals,” Campbell added.

“Farmers need clarity, consistency in how standards and restrictions are developed, and for EPA to listen to the experts with real experience working with these crop protection tools.”

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