Agriculture is one of the few industries where America remains the world leader. Our nation is blessed with fertile lands and able hands to work the fields. As a farmer and owner of an agribusiness myself, I understand firsthand how turbulent farm life is. So many factors are constantly working against you — weather, pests, weeds. Of course, farmers are not immune to the challenges facing our entire economy, including the COVID shutdowns and the supply chain crisis.
But despite all these challenges, farmers still get up with the sunrise and go about putting food on the table — for their families and for all Americans. Because of the vital roles that farmers play, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not now change regulations involving certain pesticides and herbicides, which would only burden both our farmers and the environment itself. The EPA wants to change its regulations on certain pesticides because it wants to go beyond the statutory minimums established by Congress, which would only exacerbate an already unstable supply chain.
Many farmers have already planned the 2022 growing season, and any disruption to the products farmers can use would require farmers to engage in drastic changes to save their growing season; even resorting to outdated practices that are not the most environmentally friendly practices. In fact, maintaining access to these herbicides and pesticides is a priority for the Missouri Soybean Association and other agriculture groups around our state.
In working the land, farmers have to be mindful of the environmental consequences of their actions. We have to be. After all, we depend on the land for sustenance, and we care about our impact on our friends and neighbors. We also have to be mindful of the fact that farmers need tools to combat the weeds and pests that threaten to destroy a crop, which is why there is so much research on making pesticides and herbicides more efficient and more environmentally friendly. In fact, pesticides and herbicides have become so efficient that farmers finally began to stop engaging in some practices that were considered harmful to the environment long-term, including tilling.
For those of you who may not know, tilling is the process by which the soil is “turned” — the nutrient-rich bottom soil is moved to the top (it’s what you use a garden hoe for). It also has the added benefit of turning out the weeds in the soil. But tilling does have its drawbacks; it contributes to erosion, and it can exhaust the nutrients in the soil. It was only because of modern agriculture products — such as the pesticides the EPA is now threatening to take off the market — that farmers could transition away from tilling. These pesticides already meet the statutory requirements set forth by Congress to be considered environmentally safe, but now the EPA is trying to legislate through the bureaucracies and throw the 2022 growing season into disarray.
The EPA also overlooks the irony that in trying to regulate these pesticides “for the good of the environment,” the EPA would be pushing farmers towards engaging in tilling and other outdated practices simply so the farmers can save their growing season. The EPA should rely on the research we have and note that the benefits of these pesticides far outweigh the imaginary harms they may cause, and certainly outweigh the harms caused by tilling. For the sake of our farmers and the sake of our environment, we should maintain the scientific status quo and forgo any bureaucratic change that would harm our environment and further disrupt the supply chain.
Sen. Jason Bean was elected to the Senate in 2020 and represents Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon, and Stoddard counties. He is a fifth-generation Missourian raised in the Bootheel, and he lives on the same farm where he grew up and learned how to farm.