The world is facing serious food and energy shortages as an outgrowth of the war in Ukraine and supply-chain shortages. Farmers are working to solve these problems, but we need help from the federal government if we are going to have any chance of success.
That’s why national corn grower leaders recently called on the Biden administration to address regulatory overreach.
That call comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently revised its atrazine registration, a move that could restrict access to a critical crop protection tool that has been well tested and shown to be safe for use. Farmers fear that new requirements will impose arduous new restrictions and mitigation measures on the herbicide, limiting how much of the product they use.
The atrazine decision comes on the heels of a development involving the herbicide glyphosate. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case decided by a lower court from California, leaving in place a ruling that supports the claim that glyphosate use causes cancer – even as the EPA has repeatedly affirmed that the widely sold and well-studied herbicide is not carcinogenic.
The Supreme Court’s decision came after the solicitor general in the Biden administration submitted an amicus brief advising the court against hearing the case.
As a result, the door is now open for states to create a patchwork of regulations governing herbicide use, which will increase costs as manufacturers must now jump through hoops in every state, on top of making compliance difficult for the users of these products.
Farmers in Iowa and across the country have also experienced major fertilizer price hikes and shortages over the last year, thanks in part to steps taken by the U.S. International Trade Commission to impose tariffs on fertilizers. Thankfully, ITC recently voted against adding tariffs on nitrogen fertilizers. But tariffs on phosphorous fertilizers from Morocco remain in place, driving up input prices for growers.
The administration must play a stronger role in protecting our tools from unnecessary and burdensome regulations. And there are a few ways it can accomplish this objective.
First, EPA should follow the science as it evaluates and regulates atrazine and refrain from placing unnecessary regulations on this important herbicide.
Secondly, the Biden administration should enforce its authorized role under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, as the body governing pesticide use in the U.S. Per FIFRA, states are precluded from placing regulations on products that surpass those enacted by EPA. By enforcing FIFRA, President Biden would prevent states, like California, from setting up their own fragmented regulatory systems that make it more difficult for farmers to access inputs, such as herbicides.
Finally, we need the Biden administration to take immediate steps to eliminate the existing tariffs on phosphorous fertilizers. Such a move would provide immediate relief to farmers who are struggling to pay for these products that are so critical to successful farming.
If we’re going to successfully feed and fuel the world, it is critical that farmers have the complete support of the U.S. government. And let’s hope for everyone’s sake that such support comes sooner rather than later.
Chris Edgington, an Iowa farmer, is president of the National Corn Growers Association.