The Save Our Crops Coalition, which calls itself a grassroots group of farm interests, wants USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to dig deeper into the potential challenges presented by two new technologies currently under review. The group released two petitions today - one for USDA and the other for EPA.
The new crop technologies would incorporate use of either 2,4-D- or dicamba-tolerance along with glyphosate tolerance to enhance control of resistant weeds.
However, SOCC is concerned that the return of these legacy auxin herbicides raises concerns about drift and volatization - two well-known impacts of the active ingredients. During a teleconference Wednesday, SOCC outlined their concerns.
Steve Smith, chairman of the coalition, who is also with tomato producer Red Gold, took the lead in the conference noting that the group is concerned about off-target impacts of these crop protection products.
However, the new crops coming on stream as early as 2013, will be linked to new formulations of 2,4-D and dicamba, both designed to be low drift and have much-reduced volatility, according to data from those companies. Smith acknowledges that the new formulations do promise low volatility and "we are appreciative of those efforts, which must be a requirement to come to market." But he argues that a label allowing the spraying of the new formulation of 2,4-D at wind speeds up to 15 miles per hour is a concern.
"The glyphosate label says do not spray when conditions are right for drift," Smith notes. "This label would allow producers to have legal cover if there is a drift issue."
The higher wind speed is only in open areas with no threat of down-wind off-target applications, in most instances the wind speed requirement will be 10 miles per hour - when there's a threat of off-target crop injury nearby.
And the coalition worries that farmers may skip the new formulations in favor of generic products that will be cheaper and won't have the low-drift, reduced volatility properties. "A system is only as strong as its weakest link and economics will drive the game," Smith notes.
Kip Tom, a northern Indiana, crop producer, says he is also concerned about use of generic versions of the two crop protection products, but says companies are working on the stewardship of the new formulations. He also thinks today's crop producers are more sensitive to the issues. "Producers are at a different place than they were five to 10 years ago," he notes. "We've seen a doubling of waterhemp resistance in southern Illinois. We need new tools to control the weed we're facing and I'm convinced producers today can manage [this technology]."
Tom adds that the two crop protection products are not new and will remain in the market. The new lower-drift/low-volatility formulations will be key as the tech comes to market. He notes that the industry will have to make sure the labels are properly worded so that the right products are used.
In its petition to EPA, SOCC is asking the agency to conduct a Scientific Advisory Panel meeting and for the Administrator to appoint added advisers to the panel, as needed, to "discuss and address herbicide spray drift and volatilization impacts associated with the use of synthetic auxin tolerant crops."
The group is also petitioning USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service asking that it "prepare an environmental impact statement to consider the cumulative impacts of the deregulation of synthetic auxin herbicide tolerant crops."
And the endgame for this activity? "We just want to make sure the regulatory agencies look at all the issues, not just the efficacy and the immediate aspects of the products. Our concerns about this is that there are many other environmental impacts with the use of these products. We want the agencies to do a complete analysis of what that off-target movement might be," Smith says.
SOCC says it includes more than 2,000 growers who represent both conventional and organic production of both specialty crops and major acreages of agronomic crops. Members include the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association, the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association and is supported by major processors including Seneca and Red Gold.