Firstly, _activist_ groups have been known to play fast and loose
with the truth in their mailings and methods of rallying public
Secondly, if I were a farmer about to lose my primary herbicide, I'd
be upset, too. Legitimately. Especially if no one had yet bothered,
with _respect_ and _sensitivity_ to help me discover (read: 'teach
me,' but the softer language is intentional) that there are a nujmber
of alternatives to atrazine.
This is potentially an important 'teachable moment' in the lives of
many farmers, but we have to understand where they are coming from --
something at which activists are not particularly good.
Let's face it, farm chemicals, atrazine included, are very effective
at buffering wild swings in the populations of 'problem organisms.'
A naturally healthy farm organism is also good at buffering these
wild swings, but a healthy farm organism cannot develop without
abandoning most (if not all) chemical applications. Even if the
advantages of natural buffering are seen and understood, most farmers
look at that GAP (when chemical buffers have been abandoned, but
before the natural ones are successfully established) and see
enterprise-threatening chaos. Kind of like a drunk getting the
shakes if he stays off the sauce for a couple of days...
I expect that the difficulties are compounded by the farm program.
Atrazine and continuous corn are highly compatible. A good rotation
really helps weed management, but not only does atrazine make it hard
to shift out of corn (moving down in the soil only about 8-10 cm/yr),
the farm program indirectly penalises sensible rotations.
Continuous corn is a great way to keep your corn base up, and having
corn base now contributes substantially to the market value of crop
land. Moving to a good rotation might actually decrease the farm
value to the extent that the banker could become concerned about loan
to value ratios and (at least threaten to) call the loan.
If we're going to address the atrazine issue, we must also address
the over-arching problems of corn base and helping farmer through
both the agronomic and economic challenges of instituting a sensible
(meaning forage-based, IMO) rotation. Until we are able and willing
to do that, our own activist efforts, no matter how well intentioned,
ring somewhat hollow.
As much as a dislike the triazines as a class, I lean in the
direction of believing that the 'ban them outright, up front'
approach is probably wrong; it will certainly alienate a bunch of
folks if successful.
Something I learned in the cattle business seems pertinent here.
Loading cattle directly onto a truck is HARD. You have flying
hooves, and milling about, and gorings, and panic, and general chaos.
First get them into the corral, and then load them onto the truck.
It's easier on both farmer and beast. What some folks are trying to
do with a triazine de-registration is very much akin to loading
cattle directly onto the truck.
In creative education and sensitive dialogue, we have a corral right
at hand. It's not as 'easy' as counter-mailings and legislative
lobbying, but somehow it seems more deeply effective in the long run,
and therefore much more sustainable.
Agronomist and Farmer