Survey: Issues With EPA Herbicide Proposal

Soybean Farmers Say EPA Herbicide Strategy Too Costly

Jason Jenkins
By  Jason Jenkins , DTN Crops Editor
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A survey found that only one in five soybean growers could meet the proposed EPA requirements for herbicide use with the practices they currently had in place on the farm. (Photo courtesy of USDA)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- Roughly 80% of the nation's soybean farmers could face moderate to extreme additional costs to comply with a proposed EPA plan for future herbicide use, according to a survey conducted by a national commodity organization.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the American Soybean Association (ASA) released the results of a survey it conducted with 75 of its farmer board members and a sample of soy growers from affiliate state soybean organizations. Overall, it found 99% of soybean growers would be subject to new requirements under the EPA's draft Herbicide Strategy, the agency's current effort to make herbicide registrations comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In an effort to protect endangered species and their critical habitats from herbicide exposure, the EPA's draft strategy proposes growers adopt early mitigation measures such as vegetative filter strips, grassed waterways and field borders to reduce herbicide movement through runoff and/or soil erosion. Herbicide users would need to achieve a minimum number of "efficacy points," with EPA assigning one to three points to each option in its menu of mitigation measures. The number of points required would vary based on the herbicide and the field location.

"Given herbicide resistance issues and a lack of comparable options reported by survey respondents, farmers would be forced to adopt pricey mitigations, accept lower yields due to weed pressure, or need to stop growing crops requiring herbicides with high efficacy point requirements," ASA said when releasing its survey. "The survey indicates significant, harmful impact on U.S. agriculture if the proposal is adopted in its current form."

More than half of growers who responded to the ASA survey, which was conducted in December 2023, reported they did not use 11 of the 18 mitigation measures EPA included in its draft strategy. Based upon current practices, only 21% could meet the efficacy point requirements for their farm with the practices they currently had in place.

"In short, if the Herbicide Strategy were implemented today, most producers would be unable to use herbicides they deem necessary for crop production," ASA said.

The survey followed up by asking respondents how costly they would expect adoption of new mitigation practices to be. Nearly half (46%) expected their adoption to be moderately costly, with another 38% saying it would be extremely costly. Only 13% expected adoption to be slightly costly, with 3% expecting it not to be costly at all.

Along with its draft proposal, EPA provided case studies for a dozen herbicides commonly used in agriculture, including active ingredients such as dicamba, 2,4-D, metolachlor and paraquat. Nearly all producers in the ASA survey indicated they use these products and 93% percent stated they could not easily remove these products from their current herbicide program.

"Herbicide-resistant weeds are becoming a big challenge for growers, with 41% rating it as a major issue," ASA reported. "Only 11% do not have at least moderate problems with herbicide resistance. Largely, as a result of herbicide resistance, growers have limited flexibility to change their herbicide mix."

Last week, a federal district court in California granted EPA a three-month extension to complete the Herbicide Strategy. The court modified a settlement reached last September when the agency had agreed to produce the document by May 30, 2024. The new deadline is Aug. 30, 2024. Read more here:….

Given the non-random selection of participants and sample size, ASA acknowledged that its survey results should not be treated as statistically significant, definitive evidence. However, the commodity group said given the geographic dispersion of producers (24 states), range of farm size (320 to 9,000 acres) and number of commodities grown (15), coupled with a lack of alternative attempts to quantify the ability of growers to comply with the EPA's proposed strategy, results from these 75 persons provide the best snapshot of potential ramifications to date.

To read more about the ASA's survey, go here:….

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Jason Jenkins