Last year was another very tough year for U.S. farmers. From supply chain hassles and higher costs stemming from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, to increased drought and torrential storms brought about by climate change, trying to keep crops healthy and businesses going has been a challenge – to say the least. The extreme worker shortages also make for long, hard hours for those left to tend the fields and animals.
Many farms in our region have closed up shop. Others are hanging on by a thread.
And despite all this, many of our farmers are supplying local food banks free of charge with nutritious products for those who are food insecure. To be sure, the need for such charity has rarely been greater.
But our farmers are also in need of some lifelines. Along with the challenges mentioned above, year after year they are beset by bills in legislatures across the Northeast that seek to restrict or ban scientifically vetted pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural interventions that our farmers rely on.
Thanks to the work of some environmental activists, the words “pesticide” and “herbicide” have become demonized for no good reason. The Environmental Protection Agency has a rigorous testing process for these tools. In fact, some of these products are among the most regulated in the world. If they don’t pass muster, they don’t make it to market. One has to ask, what is the point of having a group of scientists test and vet products if we don’t listen to their conclusions?
Farmers need pesticides and herbicides to control invasive species, fungi, plant disease and rot, all of which threaten crop health. Most are using precision-farming techniques which identify the parts of the crops that are in jeopardy of failing. In turn, this allows them to use less and less of these products by targeting only the area of the crop that needs help.
We don’t ban approved medicines that can treat disease. The same logic should apply to agricultural products.
We know that lawmakers are well intentioned. But they must listen to the science and to national and state regulatory bodies charged with licensing these biotechnology products. It’s critical that we ensure farmers have all the tools necessary to grow healthy crops with high yields.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the value of U.S. fruit and vegetable imports rose to record levels in 2021. We’ve seen a sharp increase in those imports during the last few years and the USDA predicts that in 2023, for the first time, America will import more produce than it exports.
While the globalization of food imports means we can enjoy certain foods unable to be grown in the U.S., we must simultaneously protect farmers who grow foods on U.S. soil. To ban pesticides and herbicides that are on the market is destructive to the viability of our farmers and will damage our ability to produce enough food. It will also stifle future innovations.
We hope that in the upcoming legislative sessions, lawmakers will follow the science and act in the best interest of their farming constituents – for the good of the industry and for the good of consumers.
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