Ag Groups Say Pesticide Proposal Puts Acres At Risk

Concern grows among agribusinesses and commodity organizations regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide proposal — the Vulnerable Species Pilot Project.

According to the American Soybean Association, EPA must complete endangered species impact evaluations for a long list of pesticides it is required to review. EPA has court-appointed deadlines to complete 18 reviews in the next six years. To alleviate the backlog, EPA has proposed several pilot projects, including those that target crop protection products.

Ag groups are taking issue with framework because it would require farmers make burdensome efforts to protect specific endangered species without waiting for species evaluations. Mary Kay Thatcher, senior manager of federal government and industry relations with Syngenta, says this could have large financial impact on farmers.

“The fact is: this EPA proposal will mean a lot more to whether farmers can keep money in their pockets than will the Farm Bill,” she says. “It’s just a very draconian measure.”

In an interview with Mid-West Farm Report, Thatcher encourages farmers to keep an eye on where this proposal is moving.

“Let (your trade groups) help you understand what it is and help you find ways to write a comment letter or to talk to a member of Congress,” she says. “But we have got to do better about getting the word out about just how awful this could be for farmers.”

ASA says the broad approach to Endangered Species Act compliance could take millions of farmland acres out of production. This is due to either the inability to use pesticides or the cost of mitigations. Many of the mitigations have a high cost of implementation and could exceed the agricultural productivity of the land. For example, planting buffers (i.e., trees) could cost $330 per acre annually. Filter strips like grasses or other natural vegetation could cost $233 per acre annually. There are also equipment costs.

Kevin Malchine farms about 2,000 acres in Racine County. He was among 1,500 farmers to sign a letter to the EPA raising issue with the VSPP. In an interview with Mid-West Farm Report, he says the blanket approach will not work for everyone. He agrees it could negatively impact both agricultural production and existing conservation efforts.

According to the ASA, many pesticides permitted for USDA-certified organic agriculture would fall under the program. Further, conservation practices often rely on herbicides. No-till practices require herbicides to control weeds. Cover crops are often terminated with herbicides. Farms that use these conservation practices in VSPP areas will find it costly to implement or continue them.

Listen to a previous interview with Malchine: