Protect Our Farmers Access to Pesticides

In Illinois, there are over 72,000 farm operations, covering 27 million acres (75% of the state’s land area) generating over $25 billion annually in agricultural commodities. Additionally, billions of dollars are contributed to the state’s economy from agriculture related industries (retail; manufacturing; processing; sustainable aviation fuel, biodiesel, and ethanol production). Providing jobs and other economic benefits to both urban and rural areas of the state. Crop protection tools, such as pesticides, play a pivotal role in sustaining agriculture, aiding farmers in maintaining high yields and affordable food prices, and advancing conservation initiatives. Unfortunately, growers’ access to these critical tools are being threatened by off-farm political interests. Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is working hard to protect Illinois’ vital agriculture industry by defending growers access to crop protection tools they need to feed, clothe, and fuel the world. As such, we believe that it is important to bring to your attention concerns we have regarding likely actions soon to be taken by the EPA. Help Illinois Soybean Growers stand between you and pesticide regulation!

Support the effort to push back on the Herbicide Strategy by signing this farmer letter supported by Illinois Soybean Growers, American Soybean Association, and many other grower groups.

At This Time, The Federal Government Is Caving To Political Pressure and Ignoring The Science On Pesticides Agricultural Pesticide Labeling and Uniformity… The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) gives the EPA exclusive authority to determine labeling and packaging requirements for pesticides. As part of the review process, FIFRA requires the agency to evaluate human health and environmental risks before any pesticide is registered. That process includes thorough scientific review and regular evaluation of new information to ensure the continued safety of new and existing products. Additionally, the EPA cannot approve pesticides unless they confirm there are no unreasonable adverse effects to the environment or humans. These considerations go into the final label and packaging requirements determined by the EPA. Despite this careful review and evaluation process, some states, like California, are placing access to these tools at risk by attempting to bypass the Agency’s authority and impose labeling requirements that contradict their science-based findings; leading to a patchwork of conflicting state labels that would disrupt commerce and limit farmer access to needed crop protection products, creating substantial challenges for Illinois growers. Thankfully, bipartisan legislation – The Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act – supported by Illinois Soybean Growers – was introduced to protect growers access to necessary crop protection tools. Without which, many farm operations would be in danger of failing.

The EPA Draft Herbicide Strategy Framework and its supporting documents can be found in the image above:

The EPA Draft Herbicide Strategy Framework and its supporting documents can be found by clicking the image above:

Anti-Farmer Pesticide Policy Changes – Endangered Species Act

Interim Mitigation Strategies

When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers or reevaluates a pesticide, the Agency is required, by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to ensure that the registration protects listed species and their critical habitats. Over the past several decades the Agency has failed to meet these obligations in a timely manner. As a result, they have come under multiple lawsuits from environmental groups. The EPA has admitted that doing the work (research and review) required by the ESA for all current pesticides would entail decades of work, if not centuries – creating a nearly impossible task. To avoid litigation, meet court decisions, and come into compliance with the ESA the Agency has proposed the Interim Mitigation Strategies, which would place excessive burden on Illinois farms, by re-inventing its agricultural pesticide policies. While ISG understands that a pathway for the EPA to meet its ESA obligations is essential to ensure pesticide access to our farmers. However, we are deeply concerned that expected policy changes ignore the concerns of farmer stakeholders and create unfair burdens on our growers.

Herbicide Strategy

The EPA released the Agency’s proposed Herbicides Strategy. If in-acted, it will create new and burdensome regulations for on-farm herbicide use. The Herbicide Strategy is the first in a series of major changes to US pesticide regulation planned by the EPA as part of the Interim Mitigation Strategy. The core concept of the Herbicide Strategy is that farmers would attain “points” by adopting specific practices (reduced tillage, cover crops, vegetative filter strips, contour farming, etc.). Use of most herbicides would require a set number of “points” per field – most herbicides could require 6 or more points to use. ISG anticipates that farmers would have to adopt multiple practices in each field. Creating a situation for some Illinois farmers where they are unable to comply with the proposal, effectively making the land unfarmable. In almost all cases, the proposal would impose significant costs on farm operations.

The Herbicide Strategy and support documents are extensive, comprising over 500 pages of rules and regulations. This makes it difficult for individual producers and applicators to even determine if fields are under regulation or understand their compliance obligations.

  • Criminal Penalties: Violations can result in either civil or criminal penalties. The ESA allows civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, and criminal penalties of up to $50,000 and one year in prison per violation. It is therefore important for farmers and landowners to be aware if a listed species is present on or near their property in order to avoid causing unlawful take or altering its critical habitat.
  • Surveillance State:

    Worse yet, since violations would fall under ESA, there is the potential for individuals to be rewarded for reporting farmers. Creating a scenario where there is a financial incentive for the surveillance of farm operations by activists; thus, exposing farmers to the potential for false accusations that may be difficult to defend.

  • Pesticide Exclusion Zones: The EPA is splitting much of the country into Pesticide Use Limitation Areas (PULA) based on loosely defined and identified habitats. Many Illinois farm fields fall into two of these PULA areas. While new regulations will apply nationwide, farmland in the PULAs will have additional requirements for farmers. Making compliance even more difficult and in some cases effectively creating pesticide exclusion zones.
  • Larger Drift Buffers: The EPA is expanding rules around aerial and ground spraying of herbicides. Downwind spray-drift buffers of up to 500 feet for aerial applications and 200 feet for ground applications will be required for fields near ESA habitats.

Sign up to receive specific information regarding actions being taken by the EPA barring farmers the crop tools they need in order to do your job effectively. For questions and or concerns, contact Dr. Corey Lacey