Some public comments on the EPA's proposed atrazine restrictions argue the agency is "playing politics" by requesting tighter restrictions on atrazine, despite an absence of scientific evidence to support the measure.

"Most farmers are big supporters of the safe, efficient, and judicious use of crop-protection tools," writes Amanda Zaluckyj, the Farmer's Daughter USA, in this article for AgDaily. "Agrochemicals help them grow our abundant, nutritious and safe food supply. Measured use of pesticides allows us to protect the environment and pass our farms to the next generation." 

The EPA proposed new rules for atrazine use in June. The proposed rules would reduce the concentration equivalent level of concern (CE-LOC) from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 3.4 ppb, reduce atrazine usage to a maximum of 2 pounds per acre per year, prohibit aerial spraying and ban atrazine applications to saturated soils, as well as within 48 hours of forecasted heavy precipitation. Growers in areas where the concentration equivalent level of concern would exceed 3.4 ppb would be required to apply mitigation measures from "picklists" furnished by the EPA.

Zaluckyj says it seems like the EPA is "playing politics" with the reduced CE-LOC because the original standard was based on a "rigorous scientific foundation." Many of the groups that spoke up against the new proposed rule used science as the basis of their arguments in favor of atrazine.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture submitted the following comment on the proposal:

"Any CE-LOC not solidly supported by the best science available is arbitrary and capricious," the group writes. "However, after the change in presidential administrations, EPA then chose to reevaluate the atrazine 15 ppb CE-LOC it previously set and established less than 2 years earlier in late 2020. Less than 18 months into this new administration, EPA issued its newly proposed scientifically unsupported atrazine restrictions.

"Despite that there has been no subsequent change in the science — and with apparently little to no feedback from the public, states, farmers and other members of the regulated community, outside scientific advisors, industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or any other primary stakeholders — EPA, deliberating in strict self-imposed isolation, determined the atrazine aquatic ecosystem CE-LOC in watersheds should be substantially reduced to an ultra-low level of 3.4 ppb."

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly submitted a comment stating nearly 7,000 scientific studies have established the safety of atrazine. 

"The proposed changes to the usage levels of atrazine ignore proven scientific data and jeopardize Kansas’ farmers’ ability to continue to be a worldwide leader in producing safe, bountiful crops and the livestock those crops feed," Kelly writes. "They also threaten the Kansas agricultural community’s recent achievement of producing over $5 billion in agricultural exports for the first time in recorded history."

Other commenters, including the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, argued that stricter regulations could force farmers to abandon no-till and other environmentally beneficial practices.

"The potential benefits of no-till are well-documented, from improving soil health to reducing annual fuel and labor investments," the comment reads. "With all the administration’s efforts to battle climate change, it is difficult to comprehend that the EPA would finalize a rule that knowingly endangers the environment by forcing farmers to backtrack on the adoption of the most significant soil conservation advances of the last century."

Read the more than 500 comments on the proposal here

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