Atrazine Action in 2022

Atrazine is at risk, and we need farmers’ help. That’s it. That’s the lead.

Article By Jennifer Blackburn

Atrazine is at risk, and we need farmers’ help. That’s it. That’s the lead.

In the Fall 2018 issue of Sorghum Grower, we told you, “Atrazine is one of many crop protection products producers will need to fight for between now and 2022 as active ingredients are being reviewed or re-registered.”

That means we’re nearing the finish line, and a lot could be at stake this year. We cannot win this fight without your individual attention and action. Here’s why.

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized biological evaluations (BEs), concluding three common herbicides can adversely affect endangered species or their habitats–atrazine, simazine and glyphosate.

In November 2021, grower groups like National Sorghum Producers noted frustration with the EPA when the agency did not use “the best available science and data,” as is required by law, in its endangered species BEs for atrazine, simazine and glyphosate. EPA’s assessments are overly conservative and potential impacts to individuals within an endangered species can trigger “may affect” and “likely to adversely affect” determinations without consideration of any affect to the species overall. As a result, EPA’s final BEs, released Nov. 12, for these chemistries significantly inflated the number of species and habitats found likely to be adversely affected.

To make matters more threatening, the EPA is evaluating its current Level of Concern (LoC), which the EPA uses to compare with calculated risk quotient (RQ) in ecological risk  assessments to determine the level of potential risk to non-target organisms and the need for further regulatory restrictions.

As a grower group, data is clear on what the LoC should be. However, NSP knows the dramatic vacillation between figures recently is concerning, and we need a transparent process that includes EPA engagement with farmers at the table.

Sorghum producers submitted thousands of comments in the summer of 2016 defending the product after the release of the EPA’s Ecological Risk Assessment for atrazine and in 2018 when the Cumulative Human and Health Risk Assessment for atrazine was released as part of the re-registration review process. NSP will need sorghum producer support in 2022 once again.

Two-thirds of U.S. sorghum acres use atrazine for weed management. NSP estimates losing atrazine would cost growers an additional $30 per acre, and atrazine allows 74 percent of sorghum acres to be no- and minimum-till. An NSP survey found 79 percent of growers would return to tillage without atrazine, and according to USDA data, eliminating atrazine from sorghum and returning to tilling would mean a 39.6 percent larger carbon footprint.

We are at a critical time in history and if there was ever a time to be engaged in the fight, the time is now, as precedence will likely determine the future of crop protection products. The risks of not engaging and working with the regulatory community to address these procedural pitfalls could have generational impacts on the ability for farmers to utilize crop protection
products for decades to come. Text “NSP Text” to 52886 to receive alerts relating to this and other important issues later in 2022.


This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.