Changes in pesticide regs mean farmers have to tweak practices

Changing pesticide practices
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 7:12 AM EST
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LOWVILLE, New York (WWNY) - With springtime around the corner, farmers are preparing to plant their crops. Part of that preparation is getting rid of weeds.

But this year, there are some changes after the Environmental Protection Agency got taken to court for failing to re-review existing pesticides that fail to comply with the Endangered Species Act.

“So, the courts are no longer going to tolerate the non-compliance with the EPA, and once you start going to court, and the courts start winning, there’s a crack in the armor,” said Mike Hunter, who’s a field crop specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension. “So, the EPA is in hot water. ‘We’re going to clean up our act,’ they say, ‘we’re going to start doing these reviews.’”

At Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Crop Congress in Lowville Tuesday, Hunter explained that these reviews have to tweak usage of these pesticides to ensure farmers aren’t using too much or using them in a manner that would let the chemicals run into waterways.

“What we’re going to see now is more label restrictions for many of our agricultural pesticides that we use today,” Hunter said.

One popular pesticide that has been reviewed is Atrazine. Farmers must now use less of it per acre, unless they can prove they’re using mitigation practices to prevent runoff.

“It’s going to come down to no till, minimal till, strip till, cover crops,” Hunter said.

On the label of the product, it will lay out just how much a farmer must do to use the product on his fields. However, some of the suggested mitigation practices aren’t realistic for upstate farmlands, like terrace farming.

“Some of these practices we’re asked to do, we’re going to be pinched on some fields that we can or can’t make applications,” Hunter said, “so this is just something new.”

But at the end of the day, these practices aren’t a bad thing, they’re just a new requirement.

“Those practices are trying to prevent pesticides running off and potentially threatening our endangered species,” Hunter said, “so put your head down, follow the labels, and follow them carefully because you don’t want a violation in that.”