I’m a farmer from Woodhull, Illinois, a small town in the western part of the state. I was fortunate to grow up around farming and I continue that tradition today on 3,900 acres of corn and soybeans with my brother, son, and nephew. Through my years in the farming industry, I’ve seen what it takes to run a successful operation and one key to that is pesticides.
I’m no stranger to the controversy that surrounds pesticide use. However, I’d love a chance to explain the benefits I see and my thoughts on the negative perceptions.
Did you know it takes an average of 11 years of intense research and data-sharing to secure approval for commercial pesticide use, and only one in 10,000 discoveries will make its way from the lab to the field? To put this into perspective, a discovery made today would likely not be available to me and other farmers to use until 2033. During this review process, federal agencies review hundreds of studies for each pesticide to determine impacts on unintended species and the environment, risks to human health, and more. The government is not just stamping everything that comes across their desk – far from it.
When you avoid pesticides, a lot more tillage – disrupting the soil to control for weeds and pests and to prepare for seeding – is required. The more tillage, the more erosion. There is also a carbon impact. When you till the soil, you release carbon into the atmosphere. If you follow the headlines, the reduction of carbon impact is crucial to mitigating the effects of climate change, improving public health, boosting the global economy, and maintaining biodiversity.
Pesticide application and use isn’t something anyone takes lightly. Federal law and regulations require any person who applies or supervises the use of restricted use pesticides (RUPs) be certified as a private or commercial applicator. This entails extensive training and continuing education in order to maintain that licensure. Pesticide products undergo an extensive review and labeling process. As a safeguard, the food supply is continually tested and monitored for residues. These safeguards are needed because pesticide use is necessary in order to produce enough food to support a growing population.
When I consider the United States without pesticides, I see a drastic reduction in public parks and conservation reserve programs, and a food shortage. We don’t have to look further than 30 years ago when we had fewer pesticides to see that yields were half what they are today. With a booming population to feed in current times, we’d be using every inch of green space when striving to meet food demands. The thing is – we likely would not meet food demands. Imagine if there were civil wars as citizens had to fight to have enough food for themselves and their families.
A final parting thought that I’ll leave you with – us farmers, we live out here by the fields. This is where we raise our children, grandchildren, and beyond. We would not do anything to our fields that’s going to jeopardize the health of us or our families.
Read on to find out about Randy's experiments with flying on cover crops.