EPA Grants Requests to Extend Comment Period for Atrazine, Simazine, Propazine
Farmers have additional time to submit comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s preliminary aquatic life risk assessment that would basically ban the use of atrazine and other triazine herbicides. Several agriculture groups submitted requests to extend the 60-day comment period that coincided with the summer growing season. EPA announced on Tuesday that the extension would be granted, moving the comment deadline to October 4.
Atrazine is a vital tool that helps Kansas corn growers control weeds in their fields. It is especially important to farmers using conservation tillage or no-till farming methods. Atrazine is also important for fighting herbicide resistance issues in weeds, an issue which EPA recently addressed in a separate draft guidance document.
In a letter to EPA, Kansas Corn Growers Association President Bob Timmons stated, “The comment period for this risk assessment falls in the heart of the farming season for Kansas growers. Many are still planting other fall crops like sorghum and soybeans, and many are beginning to harvest our winter wheat crop. As a farmer who is harvesting wheat and caring for my fall crops, I can attest to the challenges presented by this growing-season comment period. Considering the length and complexity of the risk assessment, coupled with the concerning departure from conventional scientific reasoning, it is especially challenging for our growers to consider and develop comments within a short timeframe occurring while they are in the fields.”
In its recommendations, EPA ignored several high-quality studies and instead used studies the agency’s own 2012 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) found to be flawed. Using the flawed research, EPA recommended the aquatic life level of concern (LOC) be set at 3.4 parts per billion (ppb) on a 60-day average. EPA’s current LOC for atrazine is 10 ppb, however all credible scientific evidence points to a safe aquatic life LOC at 25 ppb or greater.
EPA’s recommendations set a dangerous precedent when it comes to approving crop protection tools, puts farmers at a great economic disadvantage and would drastically set back conservation efforts. The proposed level cuts average field application rates down to 8 ounces per acre, which would render atrazine useless in most situations.
Used for more than 50 years, the loss of atrazine in corn producing regions would limit farmers’ conservation efforts, specifically no-till production practices, leading to increased soil erosion and fossil fuel use. According to conservative estimates by EPA in 2003, farming without the availability of atrazine would cost an additional $28 per acre for a replacement product. A 2012 study by the University of Chicago estimated the loss of atrazine would cost farmers $59 per acre. Given tight margins in today’s grain markets, the cost difference could determine whether farmers make any profit or lose money on their crop.
Several online resources are available including the Kansas Corn website at kscorn.com. For more background on atrazine and its lengthy review and re-review process with EPA, visit agsense.org. A website to help growers to quickly submit comments is available at fightepa.com.