“The best science and data available. This is a phrase that carries weight – or at least it should, because “the best science and the best data available” is the standard by which a regulator is charged with making decisions under the endangered species. It is also the standard upon which the plight of farmers across the country rests and their continued ability to use vital crop protection tools.
Producer groups express frustration that the EPA has not recently used “the best science and data available” as required by law, in its endangered species (BE) biological assessments for glyphosate, atrazine and simazine published on November 12. A biological assessment is a document that contains the EPA’s analysis of the potential effects of a pesticide on federally threatened or endangered species and their designated critical habitat. It includes any conclusion that the pesticide may affect any of these species or habitats. As a result, the EPA’s final biological assessments for these chemicals dramatically inflate the number of species and habitats likely to be adversely affected.
The American Soybean Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation have sought to provide the agency with better sources of actual data, including comments on draft organic assessments. For example:
- The final BE for glyphosate also continues to assume that soybean growers are using 3.75 lbs / acre of glyphosate per application, as market research data and USDA survey data show that the number is 1.00 lbs / acre – almost four times less than what the BE assumes.
- The final BE for glyphosate also assumes that growers reapply the chemistry just seven days after an initial application. This extraordinarily unrealistic assumption for any producer increases the risk of exposure of the model to the species.
The producers provided these real-world examples and data sources to the EPA in public comments, which the EPA chose not to incorporate into its final biological assessment.
Kevin Scott, a South Dakota soybean grower and president of the American Soybean Association, expressed frustration at the EPA’s failure to use better data, saying: But the agency said she had no intention of doing it. What is more frustrating is that producers shared better and credible data with the EPA, which it chose to ignore. These unrealistic findings will only fuel public mistrust and risk producers’ access to glyphosate and other essential tools. “
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said: “We are disappointed that the Environmental Protection Agency has received real evidence of limited pesticide use, but has not used the most accurate data. in its biological evaluations. By overestimating the use of these crop protection tools, the EPA also overestimated the impact on species.
“Herbicides are essential tools in climate smart agriculture because they allow farmers to use minimal tillage practices and fewer resources to raise their crops. EPA needs to take a holistic approach to its organic assessments and use the best available data to decide on the rules that will affect the way farmers grow healthy crops, ”commented Duvall.
By making such unrealistic conclusions, the agency must now formally consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on hundreds of additional species, which would have been unnecessary if the EPA had used the best available data. This additional burden is likely to further strain resource-strapped agencies, lengthen regulatory deadlines, and result in additional restrictions on products that may do nothing to protect species.