Atrazine is a herbicide that was registered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1958. It is one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the U.S. It is used primarily on corn, sorghum, and sugarcane to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in the Midwest. On the basis of total pounds of atrazine used in the U.S., over 90% of corn is applied with atrazine. Upwards of 65% of sorghum and sugarcane acres also are treated.
The release of the draft atrazine ecological risk assessment is part of the re-registration process for the herbicide. If the recommendations included within the current EPA assessment stand, it would effectively ban atrazine, the NCGA said. The EPA is accepting public comments on the assessment through Oct. 4.
According to the NCGA, the ban of atrazine could cost the industry $2.5 billion in yield losses and increased input costs.
“Farmers cannot afford to lose access to atrazine,” said Wesley Spurlock, first vice-president of the NCGA. “The farm economy has been struggling the past few years, and this could mean the difference between a profit and a loss for many farmers.”
A 2012 economic analysis by the University of Chicago found that farming without atrazine could cost corn farmers up to $59 per acre. That’s a staggering cost at a time when net farm income has already declined 55% over the past 2 years, according to USDA figures — and one that’s bound to have repercussions across the entire agriculture industry, NCGA said.
“Farmers have been tightening their belts the last couple years, and we’ve seen those ripple effects throughout our rural communities,” Spurlock said. “Implement dealers sell less equipment, manufacturers scale back production, and agribusinesses lay off employees. We can’t further weaken the farm economy by taking away one of the most effective tools farmers have to combat weeds and grow an abundant crop.”
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