Missouri farmer Keith Witt and growers from four other states took time off from the busy harvest season last week to talk to representatives from Syngenta Crop Protection about the importance of atrazine to their farming operations.
A roundtable meeting was held Sept. 29 at the National Corn Growers Association office in Chesterfield, Mo., followed by a lunch and farm tour at the Witt farm near Warrenton. Witt is the new president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association.
While atrazine was successfully re-registered by EPA in 2006, recent attacks by environmental activists, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, have brought the issue of its safety to the forefront. Trial attorneys also continue their efforts for legal action against the makers of atrazine.
NCGA and the National Sorghum Producers invited representatives from Syngenta Crop Protection to sit down with them to reaffirm their support of atrazine and share their personal perspectives on the 50-year-old crop protection product.
"We work to be good stewards of our soil and water on our own and that includes managing fields to prevent excess chemical runoff," Witt said. "But this latest attack against atrazine is just another example of how closely scrutinized agriculture is today."
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 significantly lower rates and have better weed control," he said. "Atrazine is one of the safest chemicals we have and the science has proven that over the years."
Tim Pastoor, principal scientist for Syngenta Crop Protection, confirmed that safety record. "Atrazine is easily one of the best studied molecules on the planet. Most products will take 100 to 200 studies to be registered. There are nearly 6,000 studies on atrazine that are on file with EPA," he said. "When it was re-registered in October of 2006, EPA stated that atrazine could be used with no harm to humans."
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. State grower-leaders and staff from Missouri and Kansas also attended.
Syngenta CEO Mike Mack and president of Crop Protection Valdemar Fischer participated in the roundtable discussion at NCGA headquarters by teleconference. The Syngenta executives reaffirmed their commitment to defending the use of atrazine.