Kansas Corn Encouraged by EPA Atrazine Preliminary Decision

EPA’s Preliminary Interim Decision (PID) for atrazine was released this week, and Kansas Corn Growers Association leaders are encouraged by the language in the PID that sets the aquatic ecosystem level of concern for atrazine at a reasonable level. The decision supports EPA’s commitment to use credible scientific research to set a reasonable ecological Level of Concern for atrazine.

Kansas Corn has been active in atrazine issues since the mid-1990s and is a founding member of the Triazine Network, a diverse national coalition of growers of crops ranging from corn and sorghum to  Christmas trees and citrus who all have a stake in science-based regulatory decisions regarding atrazine and other triazine herbicides. KCGA CEO Greg Krissek serves the Triazine Network steering committee.

“We are encouraged by EPA’s Preliminary Interim Decision that corrects the ultra-low level of concern in the 2016 Ecological Risk Assessment. That level of concern would have banned atrazine use in much of farm country,” Krissek said. “Commodity leaders active in the Triazine Network made a focused effort to open dialogues with EPA officials this year leading up to the release of this PID to help them understand our concerns with some of the studies, as well as the benefits of atrazine, especially for farmers who are using conservation practices like no-till farming.”

The PID corrects a recommendation made in the 2016 Ecological Risk Assessment to set the LOC at 3.6 parts per billion. The lower LOC was based on questionable research, including studies that had been turned down by EPA’s 2012 Science Advisory Panel (SAP). Relying on several points of information, including EPA’s SAP recommendations, the agency modified the LOC to 15 parts per billion over a 60-day average.

“Not only is atrazine a safe and effective weed control tool, it is am affordable herbicide that our farmers rely on,” Krissek said. “Back in 2003, EPA estimated the loss of atrazine would cost corn growers 28 dollars per acre. Even at this low EPA estimate, atrazine’s value to farmers is significant, especially in these difficult economic times in agriculture.”

Kansas corn and other farm organizations will be encouraging growers to submit comments in support of  the atrazine LOC in EPA’s atrazine PID. However, the devil is in the details.  In 2019, EPA pledged to use credible scientific evidence in the atrazine reregistration. While EPA acknowledges there are problems with several low-quality fish, bird, and amphibian studies, these flawed studies are still being included in the document. Meanwhile, credible studies continue to be excluded. These defective studies can have drastic consequences in future reviews, especially the upcoming Endangered Species Act biological evaluation that begins this year. Replacing atrazine with any comparable alternative would not be as effective and increase your cost of production at a combined expense of at least $30 per acre. EPA must get the science right.

“Today’s publication of the atrazine PID opens a 60-day comment period. It important for growers submit comments on this issue,” Krissek said. “Well-funded special interest groups will gin up comments from supporters who have no idea what atrazine is, but who will act as an echo chamber for those groups’ talking points. It is important that EPA hears from growers who actually use atrazine and can explain its value, especially its importance to conservation practices.”

In 1995, KCGA Executive Director Jere White, now retired, led an effort to create the coalition called the Triazine Network, that focuses on the regulation of the Triazine herbicides, atrazine, simazine and propazine. The Network was formed in response to EPA’s initiation of a Special Review of the triazine herbicides. White served as chairman of the group for until his retirement. The Network gave growers a seat at the table at EPA discussions about the regulation of the Triazine herbicides, which was unprecedented at the time.

“The groundwork laid by Jere and other leaders who are still active in the Network gave growers a voice and a seat at the table, and their efforts are key to where we are today,” Krissek said.