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Nebraska corn farmer wants to protect atrazine use as EPA considers new rules for herbicide

'We walk and eat and sleep and breathe the same air and live in the world, just like everybody else. We want it to be a good, safe product'
Posted at 7:06 PM, Aug 11, 2022

MORSE BLUFF, Neb. (KMTV) — For corn farmers like Dan Wesely, atrazine is not only a herbicide — it's a great tool for his livelihood. He uses it for weed control and doesn't have to till as much. Effective with other herbicides, it makes those other products work better so he uses less of them. But, the EPA is proposing to reduce the amount of atrazine farmers can use on their fields and it's concerning Wesely.

"They're not eliminating it, but it basically does eliminate it. It makes it ineffective and at a reduced rate, it just causes more problems," Wesely said.

Reducing atrazine could potentially reduce weed control, impacting farmers and their yield.

"It lets us do our job. It's just one tool that we need to continue to farm in a very responsible way," Wesely said.

Why is the EPA doing this?

According to its website, agency regulations require the EPA to periodically review the risks of herbicides like atrazine. UNMC's Dr. Eleanor Rogan has published some data showing an association between exposure to higher levels of atrazine and children developing brain and other central nervous system cancers.

"The International Agency for Research and Cancer considers atrazine as a probable cancer-causing agent. The EPA has not gone that far. The EPA says that there is not clear and convincing evidence of this, so they've taken a more neutral stance about it," Rogan said.

The EU has banned atrazine. But Dr. Rogan says atrazine's possible role in cancer is still "up in the air."

"Trying to use the lowest amount that was consistent with getting a high yield from my crops and look again to see if there was anything I could do to prevent the runoff from this and other pesticides from the fields, research has shown ways to do that," Rogan said.

That's a method Wesely practices, insisting he won't put out more product than he'll need to. He's simply doing his part by "feeding society."

"We walk and eat and sleep and breathe the same air and live in the world, just like everybody else. We want it to be a good, safe product," Wesely said.

The EPA is taking comments on the proposed change. The deadline to submit them is Sept. 6.

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