We’ve been served . . .Kansas Growers Served with Subpoenas Over Atrazine

Friday, September 24, 2010 0 comments
By Jere White, Executive Director
Kansas Corn Growers Association; Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

Warning, consider this as a read-only document. Downloading may implicate you as a key player in a Madison County, Illinois lawsuit…lol.

We must have spoken too loudly last week. On September 15, I gave comments supporting atrazine at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atrazine Science Advisory Panel in Washington DC. Also on September 15, we posted a column critical of trial attorneys who are pursuing big payoffs in an atrazine lawsuit and the subpoenas they had served to corn growers and their organizations who have publicly supported atrazine. The column, titled “Lawyers Aim to Harass, Intimidate Growers in Atrazine Issue” can be found on our KSGrains blog (link) as well as on the AGSense website (link). The Madison (IL) Record also published the column. The next day, September 16, the trial attorneys requested that subpoenas be issued for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association as well as a subpoena to me as an individual. The trial attorneys are involved in a case attempting to collect large payouts for communities who jumped on the lawsuit bandwagon even though their atrazine levels are well below the drinking water standards set and enforced by EPA.

The subpoenas ask for any and all records and communications relating to atrazine, Syngenta and its legacy companies, and more. There is no limit to the number of years from which we are required to gather these records. And there is no limit to what records are to be included. For example, I served on the Biotechnology Working Group with the National Corn Growers Association. We certainly had discussions about biotechnology products developed by Syngenta. In order to participate in those discussions, I signed a confidentiality agreement. Without such confidentiality, candid discussions about what traits are in the pipeline and how they can have an impact on growers would not take place. Yet any records I have regarding these discussions would be covered by the subpoena, even though this information has nothing to do with atrazine. What kind of information do the trial attorneys hope to get from our office? How would that information help determining the merits of its lawsuit?

Perhaps the trial attorneys believe they can distract us by giving us the task of going through all the files we have accumulated over the years. Or maybe this is simply a tactic to harass those of us who have chosen to stand up for atrazine and the farmers who rely on it to control weeds and grow their crops using more environmentally sustainable methods.
It appears that the trial attorneys are trying to prove a relationship between farmers and Syngenta, the primary maker of atrazine. Sure, there is a relationship. After all, we have an interest in the products they sell to growers, and they have an interest in selling products to growers. But is anyone questioning the alliance formed by the other side of this fight? The well heeled, well funded Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), trial attorney firms Korein-Tillery and Barron and Budd, big media outlets like the New York Times and the Huffington Post have all worked in concert to put atrazine on the front burner at EPA.
As a private, member funded association, we believe we have a constitutional right to have informal, off the record discussions between stakeholders, farmers, staff and others to help us arrive at decisions and policies formulated by our grower associations. Our group’s decisions on issues facing agriculture are certainly not secret. But to ask for records of every thought that went into those decisions is wrong. It would inhibit future discussions by instilling the fear that ideas shared informally could become public record even if those ideas didn’t make the final cut.

Be assured we won’t be intimidated by fat cat trial attorneys and their harassing subpoenas. We will continue to represent our growers’ interests in the atrazine issue.

Triazine Network Presents at September EPA Atrazine SAP

Thursday, September 16, 2010 0 comments
Follow the link below to view presentations and comments made by the Triazine Network at the EPA Atrazine Science Advisory Panel on September 15, 2010.
http://agsense.org/news/sap-presentations/

Lawyers Aim to Harass, Intimidate Growers in Atrazine Issue

0 comments
By Jere White, Executive Director, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

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.

(Note: Jere White is 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.)

EPA to Convene Scientific Advisory Panel on Atrazine

Monday, September 13, 2010 0 comments
NCGA opposes EPA's complicity in this continued attack on atrazine.

In light of the upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Panel's reevaluation of atrazine, The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) reemphasizes the safety and importance of the herbicide in a new commentary:

"For four days, academic, industry and government experts, along with representatives of stakeholder groups, will again address the EPA committee with information on the safe and important herbicide atrazine."

The most studied herbicide in the world, with more than 6,000 studies on record, atrazine is already supported as a safe crop protectant by years of credible, scientific research. Despite the copious data on this proven tool, the EPA is carrying out this reevaluation outside of normal procedures due to unsubstantiated activist claims based upon incendiary rhetoric. The National Corn Growers Association strongly opposes the EPA's complicity in this continued attack and urges the agency to base policy decisions in sound science.

During the public comment portion of the hearings, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 15, Triazine Network Chairman and Kansas Corn Executive Director Jere White will speak on behalf of the growers who depend upon atrazine to help fight herbicide-resistant weeds. Gary Marshall, MO Corn CEO will also be part of the Triazine Networks panel. Representatives from other stakeholder groups will also speak out during this period to stress the importance of this chemical to U.S. agriculture as a whole.

"Currently, atrazine is applied on more than half of all U.S. corn acres, two-thirds of sorghum acres and nearly 90 percent of all U.S. sugar cane acres," White said. "Mixed with another herbicide, atrazine enhances the performance of the original product and helps to control a variety of herbicide-resistant weeds. With positive safety reviews on record by the EPA, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization, this important chemical has a proven safety record."

Not only is atrazine safe, it helps to protect the environment by saving soil. When using this product, farmers are more likely to turn to conservation and no-tillage systems that protect valuable top-soil. In 2008, 64 percent of the atrazine used in corn farming allowed for no-till or conservation practices. This impacts agriculture's sustainability directly, as conservation tillage can reduce soil erosion by as much as 90 percent.

The Triazine Network, of which NCGA is a member, recently wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, expressing its concern on the agency's reevaluation. As an organization or individual citizen interested in a science-based outcome to the atrazine issue at the EPA, your support of this letter is vital. In doing so, you can help assure that the EPA follows agency protocol and uses science-based evidence when reviewing atrazine, not the false accusations of activists. Please click on this link to read the Triazine Network's letter to EPA Administrator Jackson listing our concerns about the agency's handling of the re-review of atrazine, and join us in this effort.

Website: http://www.ncga.com