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EPA Considers Pesticide Changes to Set the Clock Back on Improved Tillage, Environmental Practices

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By Sen. Jason Bean
State Sen. Jason Bean formerly served on the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council board and sat on the executive committee for the United Soybean Board.  

Agriculture is one of the few industries where America remains the world leader. Our nation is blessed with fertile lands and able hands to work the fields. As a farmer and owner of an agribusiness myself, I understand firsthand how turbulent farm life is. So many factors are constantly working against you – weather, pests, weeds. Of course, farmers are not immune to the challenges facing our entire economy, including the COVID-19 shutdowns and the supply chain crisis.  

But despite all these challenges, farmers still get up with the sunrise and go about putting food on the table – for their families and for all Americans. Because of the vital roles that farmers play, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not change regulations now involving certain pesticides and herbicides. This would only burden both our farmers and the environment itself. The EPA wants to change its regulations on certain pesticides because it wants to go beyond the statutory minimums established by Congress, exacerbating an already unstable supply chain.  

Many farmers have already planned the 2022 growing season, and any disruption to the products farmers can use would require them to engage in drastic changes to save their growing season, potentially even resorting to outdated practices that are not the most environmentally friendly. In fact, maintaining access to these herbicides and pesticides is a priority for the Missouri Soybean Association and other agriculture groups around our state.  

When working the land, farmers have to be mindful of the environmental consequences of their actions. We have to be. After all, we depend on the land for sustenance, and we care about our impact on our friends and neighbors. We also have to be mindful of the fact that farmers need tools to combat the weeds and pests that threaten to destroy a crop, which is why there is so much research on making pesticides and herbicides more efficient and more environmentally friendly. In fact, pesticides and herbicides have become so efficient that farmers finally began to stop engaging in some practices that were considered harmful to the environment long term, including tilling.  

It was only because of modern agriculture products — such as the pesticides the EPA is now threatening to take off the market — that farmers could transition away from tilling. These pesticides already meet the statutory requirements set forth by Congress to be considered environmentally safe, but now the EPA is trying to legislate through the bureaucracies and throw the 2022 growing season into disarray. 

The EPA also overlooks the irony that in trying to regulate these pesticides “for the good of the environment,” the EPA would be pushing farmers toward engaging in tilling and other outdated practices simply so the farmers can save their growing season. The EPA should rely on the research we have and note that the benefits of these pesticides far outweigh the imaginary harms they may cause. They certainly outweigh the harms caused by tilling. For the sake of our farmers and the sake of our environment, we should maintain the scientific status quo and forgo any bureaucratic change that would harm our environment and further disrupt the supply chain. 

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