FARMERS GO TO SCHOOL: PESTICIDE EDUCATION

Thank you to Illinois Farm Families and Trent Sanderson for today’s post!

Pesticides are an important tool in a farmer’s toolbox because if left alone, insects, weeds, mites or fungi could kill an entire field. However, we’re not just spraying pesticides without careful consideration and education. Every three years, farmers have to go to school and pass an exam to become certified to use pesticides on their crops.

A private pesticide applicator license is required for anyone using Restricted Use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity on property they own or control – in other words, farmers looking to apply pesticides in their own fields. The “Restricted Use” classification restricts a product, or its uses, to be used by a certified applicator or someone under the certified applicator’s direct supervision.

Before the exam, farmers learn:

  • The who, what, where, when and why of pesticides
  • Safe handling and usage of pesticides
  • Pesticide laws and regulation
  • Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

IPM is the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and utilizing those techniques in the field. IPM emphasizes healthy crops grown with the least possible disruption to the ecosystem and encourages natural pest control mechanisms. In short, farmers consider and employ multiple pest control methods, not just pesticide use.

Over the years, we have accomplished using fewer pesticides, less frequently thanks to research and technology. Whether it’s seed genetics, crop rotation or automated farm equipment, farmers continue to improve their integrated pest management program in the interest of preserving the family farm and the environment.

Trent Sanderson farms with his family in northern Illinois. Together they grow corn, soybeans, wheat and a small herd of beef cattle. He and his wife, Elizabeth, and live near the farm with sons Owen and Jack.

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: ILLINOIS STATE FAIR

IMG_8861This past Tuesday (August 16) was Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair. If you’re familiar with the history of the fair, you’ll know the fair’s primary purpose was for agriculture. People brought their animals from across the state and to compete in showing. For instance, the competition would decide which dairy cow had the best features and characteristic of the ideal dairy cow that would best carry on the breed. These competitions still exist today and have varying criteria based on the category/animal.

Since then, the Illinois State Fair has evolved to include a non-farming audience with different games, rides, concerts and foods. While no one is discounting the glory of a funnel cake, Ag Day was created to give a spotlight to the fair’s original intention. This year, IL Corn joined other agriculture organizations, farming families, and government leaders to showcase the industry while also engaging the non-farming community to learn about issues agriculture faces today.

Among the events:

 

  • 8-16-16raunerGovernment officials including Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and U.S. Congressman for Illinois Cheri Bustos showed their support by meeting with industry leaders.

 

 

  • IMG_8851Illinois FFA members interacted with government and industry officials to talk shop as they learn more to become our nation’s next agriculture leaders.

 

Check out more from our Facebook, where we live-streamed an interview with Illinois FFA members and heard from IL Corn leaders.

LAWYERS AIM TO HARASS, INTIMIDATE GROWERS IN ATRAZINE ISSUES

Sometimes, individuals and groups decide to stand up for something. In the case of many crop producers and the associations that represent them, they have decided to stand up for atrazine. Atrazine is a vital herbicide that is under attack by environmentalists, activist researchers, activist media and slick trial attorneys. These well-financed groups worked together last summer to garner enough attention to spur an unscheduled re-review of atrazine by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While farmers use atrazine in smaller and smaller concentrations, it is still an important tool to control weeds, especially in environmentally friendly “conservation” farming practices. For example, using no-till, an increasingly popular conservation farming practice, farmers leave the previous crop stubble on field and plant the next crop in that stubble. This practice reduces runoff and holds on to nutrients and other stuff that helps crop grow in the field. Atrazine’s ability to provide residual weed control makes no-till an option for many farmers. Without it, they’d better grease up the old plow. I read an apt quote on Twitter recently—“If EPA says bye-bye to atrazine, can we get cultivators rolling fast enough?”

Looking at the information above, it’s no wonder farmers and farm organizations are standing up for atrazine in a big way. It’s no wonder that they work with atrazine’s major manufacturer, Syngenta, to support this product.

But recently, many of those organizations have been served with subpoenas from big time trial attorney firms who are hoping to net millions of dollars in judgments from the state and federal court systems. These subpoenas require grower associations to turn over volumes of information to the courts regarding their growers, including all correspondence related to atrazine, Syngenta and even the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

The subpoenas come down to one thing, clear and simple: bullying. We can’t imagine what kind of useful information they hope to find by looking through membership records, leadership programs or who paid for the ice cream at a farmer’s meeting. But the threat of legal harassment might make an organization or an individual think twice about standing up for a product like atrazine.

Since the beginning of the Special Review of the triazine herbicides including atrazine in 1994, our growers have wanted one thing: a science-based outcome through EPA. Is throwing trial attorneys and frivolous subpoenas into the mix a game changer? Will farmers be intimidated and lose their will to support atrazine? The trial attorneys forgot one thing—farmers are uniquely independent. They stand up to wind, hail, drought, floods, pests and roller coaster markets on a regular basis. Slick attorneys are scary for sure, but we don’t scare that easily.

Jere White, Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association and is the Chairman of the Triazine Network, a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine.