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Kansas Corn Applauds EPA's Atrazine Comment Extension
Kansas Ag Connection - 06/23/2016

Farmers in Kansas and across the nation have additional time to submit comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's recent risk assessment that would basically ban the use of atrazine and other triazine herbicides. Kansas Corn Growers Association (KCGA) was one of several agriculture groups that submitted requests to extend the 60-day comment period that coincided with the summer growing season. EPA announced Tuesday that the extension would be granted, moving the comment deadline to Oct. 4.

In its recent aquatic life draft risk assessment for aquatic life, EPA ignored several high-quality studies and instead used studies the agency's own 2012 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) found to be flawed. Using the flawed research, EPA recommended the aquatic life level of concern (LOC) be set at 3.4 parts per billion (ppb) on a 60-day average. EPA's current LOC for atrazine is 10 ppb, however all credible scientific evidence points to a safe aquatic life LOC at 25 ppb or greater.

In a letter to EPA earlier this month, KCGA President Bob Timmons of Fredonia stated, "The comment period for this risk assessment falls in the heart of the farming season for Kansas growers. Many are still planting other fall crops like sorghum and soybeans, and many are beginning to harvest our winter wheat crop. As a farmer who is harvesting wheat and caring for my fall crops, I can attest to the challenges presented by this growing season comment period.

Considering the length and complexity of the risk assessment, coupled with the concerning departure from conventional scientific reasoning it is especially challenging for our growers to consider and develop comments within a short timeframe occurring while they are in the fields."

Kansas Corn has asserted EPA's recommendations set a dangerous precedent when it comes to approving crop protection tools, puts farmers at a great economic disadvantage and would drastically set back conservation efforts. The proposed level cuts average field application rates down to 8 ounces per acre, which would render atrazine useless in most situations.

Atrazine is a vital tool that helps Kansas corn growers control weeds in their fields. It is especially important to farmers using conservation tillage or no-till farming methods. Atrazine is also important for fighting herbicide resistance issues in weeds, an issue which EPA recently addressed in a separate draft guidance document.

According to conservative estimates by EPA in 2003, farming without the availability of atrazine would cost an additional $28 per acre for a replacement product. A 2012 study by the University of Chicago estimated the loss of atrazine would cost farmers $59 per acre. Given tight margins in today's grain markets, the cost difference could determine whether farmers make any profit or lose money on their crop.

KCGA is working with a broad coalition of ag groups in Kansas and across the U.S. to gather comments for this important issue. Several online resources are available including the Kansas Corn website at kscorn.com. For more background on atrazine and its lengthy review and re-review process with EPA, visit agsense.org. A website to help growers to quickly submit comments is available at fightepa.com.

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