Noisy Spring

It was 10 p.m. and in farm country, that’s bedtime. It was a beautiful spring evening and fresh, cool country air gently puffed in through our open bedroom windows. I should have been asleep. Instead I was staring at the ceiling. Here in eastern Kansas, and other farm areas, we often are serenaded by noisy choruses of frogs. Their songs can be comforting, but there’s always that one frog that just doesn’t blend in, hence, my inability to easily fall asleep.

Corn fields abound in our area, and most of our Kansas acres are treated with atrazine to control weeds. Many of our farmers no longer till or plow their fields. This reduces runoff and soil erosion and creates much healthier soil. Atrazine is especially important to these no-till farmers. Without it, they couldn’t control weeds without abandoning their no-till practices.

Even with the use of atrazine in our area, the frogs continue to keep me up at night with their mating calls, and general croaking. Activist scientists and now, even the Environmental Protection Agency, would be surprised to hear of this activity. They apparently believe the activists’ claims that frogs are a dying breed because of atrazine.

On April 29, EPA “accidentally” posted its 1,100-page “Refined Ecological Risk Assessment for Atrazine” which paints a dismal picture of atrazine’s effect on aquatic life, citing studies that had been discounted by EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panels as flawed. The report has been taken off the EPA website, but EPA promises to release it “for real” in the next few months. I’m sure that will make good bedtime reading.

Looking through the report, one would be tempted to believe there is “nary a frog” croaking in the corn belt because of atrazine. If you believe that, just stop by my Kansas home on a spring evening. Our noisy spring in eastern Kansas tells me that the frogs are just fine. If you do stop by, make it before 10—that’s bedtime for me—but not the frogs.

(Sue Schulte is the communications director for the Kansas Corn Growers Association. She grew up on a ranch in southwest Kansas and always dreamed of living in a city. Her dream came true. She and her husband happily live in an eastern Kansas city that boasts a population of 299.)