Oct. 1, 2009--Growers from five states left their combines this week to talk to leadership from Syngenta Crop Protection about the importance of atrazine to their farming operations. A roundtable meeting was held at the National Corn Growers Association office in Chesterfield, MO, followed by an informal meeting at the Keith Witt farm in Warrenton, MO.
While atrazine was successfully re-registered by EPA in 2006, recent attacks by environmental activists including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have brought the issue to the forefront. Trial attorneys also continue their efforts for legal action against the makers of atrazine.
Growers represented at the meeting included four past NCGA Presidents: Ron Litterer, Iowa; Ken McCauley, Kansas; Dee Vaughan, Texas and Fred Yoder, Ohio. Three past presidents of the National Sorghum Producers were present: Greg Shelor, Kansas; James Vorderstrasse, Nebraska, and Bill Kubecka, Texas.
Atrazine is used to help farmers grow crops in a way that protects the environment, especially with no-till practices, McCauley said. “Environmental activists would like you to believe that farmers don’t need atrazine, so we might as well get rid of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is it important to our growers’ bottom lines, it is vital to the practices we use to protect the environment,” McCauley said. “The NRDC says we can use another chemical, but ask NRDC what chemicals they do approve of.”
Southwest Kansas sorghum producer Greg Shelor told the group that his no-till practices would not be possible without atrazine. “I can’t no-till without atrazine,” he said. “With no-till there is not near the runoff and without no-till I will have 50 or 60 bushel sorghum instead of the 100 to 120 bushels I have now.”
Iowa grower Ron Litterer said many people don’t understand atrazine’s role in reducing rates of herbicides. “For me atrazine is an enhancer for weed control. Years ago, my dad used it as his sole product. Now we use much lower rates and have better weed control. As an enhancer, atrazine has allowed us to reduce the rates of other chemicals and has made them more effective.”
Atrazine allows Nebraska sorghum farmer James Vorderstrasse to use moisture conserving no-till practices on his farm. “There is no alternative to atrazine,” he said. “Every time you till the soil you lose an inch of moisture. Without atrazine, you’d have to till two or three times pre-plant plus cultivate a couple of times and that amounts to a loss of 5 inches of moisture.”
Ohio Grower Fred Yoder said atrazine has been important to his family farm for years. “I’m trying to remember if we have ever grown corn without atrazine. It’s been around such a long time. But does that mean we need to look at something else? I don’t think so,” he said.
Syngenta CEO Mike Mack and President of Crop Protection Valdemar Fischer participated in the roundtable discussion by phone. Travis Dickinson, Vice President of Marketing; Tim Pastoor, Principal Scientist; Steven Goldsmith Senior Communications Manager and Todd Barlow, State Government Relations Manager participated in a meeting with growers at the National Corn Growers Association offices in Chesterfield, MO. The Syngenta executives reaffirmed their commitment to defending the use of atrazine.