It’s been another 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 their 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 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. And to be sure, the need has never been greater.
But our farmers are also in need of lifelines. Along with the challenges mentioned above, year after year they are beset by bills in legislatures across the northeast that seek to ban scientifically vetted pesticides, herbicides, and other agricultural practices that our farmers rely on. Thanks to activists, the words pesticides and herbicides have become demonized for no good reason. The EPA has a rigorous testing process for these tools. In fact, these products are some of 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 which all 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 diseases. 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 biotech products. It’s critical that we ensure farmers have all the tools necessary to grow healthy crops with high yields.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), America imports 24 percent of our fruits and vegetables. An analysis by experts at U.C. Davis shows even higher numbers— roughly 66 percent of fresh fruit and 33 percent of fresh vegetables. We’ve seen a sharp increase in those imports during the last few years and all predictions say the percentages will continue to rise.
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, quite frankly, for the good of consumers.
Danielle Penney-Stroop is the President of the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance.