USDA is holding farmers back

Gary Robbins

By A Contributor

Recent flooding in south-central Kansas, only one summer removed from a historic drought, is the perfect example of the unpredictable — and uncontrollable — challenges farmers face every growing season.

For the past 20 years, I’ve farmed in Pottawatomie and Jackson counties, doing my best to manage Mother Nature, especially rainfall — lack of rain, too much rain, timing of rain, hail damage, etc.. However, the most difficult challenge on the farm today is dealing with glyphosate-resistant weeds, which have launched an attack against yields, threatening the state’s soybean and corn crops.

Weeds have always been a nuisance for gardeners and even homeowners. Still, farmers have it the worst. Hard-to-control and herbicide-resistant weeds cause yield loss and increased herbicide applications, which could cost more than $100 per acre to manage. Earlier this year, a Kansas State University Research and Extension agronomist, Dallas Peterson, said glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth had finally made its appearance in Kansas, migrating from the Southeast. Not only is it a new glyphosate-resistant weed species, Peterson said, it also adds to the current challenges of glyphosate-resistant marestail, common waterhemp, common and giant ragweed, and kochia in the state.

New solutions exist. Herbicide-resistant soybean and corn crops — as well as advanced herbicide options of 2,4-D — have been developed to provide reliable, effective solutions to the resistant weeds that cause some farmers to walk away from fields without harvesting. However, farmers are still waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the technology for use.

It’s essential for the U.S.D.A. to review all new crop technologies thoroughly before approving them for use in the field. And it does. It’s also essential that U.S.D.A. follow a specific, mandated process to ensure the review is fair and complete. The U.S.D.A. mandates the process to take 180 days; however, the new soybean and corn technologies are nearly in their fourth year of review. That’s about 1,400 days beyond the U.S.D.A.’s own mandate.

The need for access to new technologies is urgent on numerous fronts. Kansas agriculture, valued at $33 billion, is competing in a global economy. Regulatory processes in other countries have proven more streamlined. In fact, the same herbicide-tolerant technology has already been approved by Canada. That puts Kansas farmers at a severe disadvantage at the hands of our governmental processes.

Advanced technology is vital for farmers to produce more food for a growing population while also conserving natural resources. Conservation tillage, for example, allows farmers to prepare their fields for next season’s planting without tilling the soil. That saves trips across the field, lowering fuel emissions. It protects the soil by retaining moisture. It helps reduce the loss of valuable topsoil into our lakes and streams, resulting in improved water quality. Conservation tillage also provides a better habitat for wildlife, which I love to see. Without effective weed-control solutions, that environmentally friendly practice will not be an option for farmers, and some will return to intensive tillage, like that which contributed heavily to the Dust Bowl.

We’ve all observed the destruction resulting from Mother Nature’s various challenges, which are a simple fact of life. But due to the extensive number of uncontrollable challenges facing farmers today, why would we withhold the solutions that are available?

To express your support for a reliable and timely regulatory process, contact Sens. Jerry Moran or Pat Roberts or Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today.

Gary Robbins has farmed in Pottawatomie and Jackson counties for 20 years.

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