Joe Biden’s promise to be the greenest president in US history was already in doubt. Since he took office, Biden’s rating approval drop low the fastest. His popularity continues to decline as the challenges he faces increase, Burdened by pandemic, soaring petrol prices, and a rise in inflation.
Now, Biden’s EPA proposes regulations that farmers warn will drive food prices higher. A rule with strict restrictions on the use of an herbicide, which farmers claim is essential to ensuring productivity and low prices, was proposed by the Biden administration on Thursday.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revoked a Trump-era rule that let farmers use the herbicide atrazine at a greater rate.
According to an agency memo, the EPA declared on Thursday that it was reopening the chemical atrazine’s finalized reregistration because the Trump administration’s “previous decision was not adequately supported by science.”
The memo state, “Based on this reevaluation, EPA determined that this level of regulation was not appropriate and is proposing, for public comment, additional mitigation to protect aquatic plant communities.”
Agriculture industry groups said Atrazine’s “concentration equivalent level of concern” (CE-LOC) was largely changed by the agency from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 3.4 ppb. If adopted, this change would effectively compel farmers to use more expensive weed control techniques.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released proposed revisions to the agency’s September 2020 atrazine interim decision (ID) for public comment. The move was criticized by agricultural groups who have seen several disappointing crop protection regulatory developments in recent weeks. The Triazine Network says if changes are finalized by EPA it could put the key crop protection tool and today’s carbon-smart farming practices at risk.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act require EPA to periodically re-evaluate pesticides through registration review to ensure that risk assessments and pesticide decisions reflect the best available science. The ID in the registration review process allows EPA to begin implementing measures to mitigate risks of concern before a final decision is issued.
Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. It is used to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in a variety of agriculture crops, such as field corn, sweet corn, sorghum, and sugarcane. Atrazine is also used in non-agriculture settings, including nurseries, ornamentals, and turf.
EPA explains that herbicide is an important tool in agricultural production because it is economical, has a flexible use pattern, has long residual herbicidal activity, and is effective against a broad spectrum of weeds. Atrazine is also an important tool in herbicide resistance management, both in controlling weeds resistant to other herbicides and maintaining the effectiveness of other herbicides to control weeds.
“Atrazine has been around for over 60 years — I personally have used it myself,” Jim Zook, the executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association said, adding “It is very adaptable to the area and is extremely important because it provides additional efficacy for some of the other chemistries that farmers use.”
“Without a method of controlling herbs and pests, farmers “won’t be able to maximize the return on their asset,” he said.
The EPA estimates that atrazine is applied to 75 million acres of domestic agricultural crops each year. The herbicide is used on more than half of the maize crops in the US.
In contrast, the average price of maize increased sharply to $7.26 per bushel in May, significantly more than the $3.78 per bushel it was before the outbreak, according to Department of Agriculture figures released Thursday. Since corn is the main feed grain for livestock in the United States and is converted into a variety of goods like starch, biofuels, and alcohol, its production has an impact on prices in other industries as well.
In a statement, Iowa farmer and National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington said, “ We are disappointed by EPA’s decision, We can feed and fuel the world and fight climate change, but we can’t do these things without modern farming tools, and atrazine is a tool that is critical to our work.”
The EPA’s decision to crackdown on atrazine may make food costs rise even more rapidly. From May 2021 to May 2022, grocery store food purchases jumped by 11.9 percent, while the cost of some food items increased by as much as 36 percent.
Prior to the decision on Thursday, Krissek, who also serves as the chair of a sizable coalition of agriculture organizations in the United States, sent the EPA several letters pleading with it to reject the law and warning of its “real-world harmful repercussions.”
Kansas Corn Growers Association CEO Greg Krissek said in a statement:
“To say growers are frustrated is an understatement. The science hasn’t changed since 2020, when EPA set the level of concern at 15 parts per billion, EPA is playing politics with this decision and should not adopt this ultra-low level of concern.”
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