The South Dakota Farm Bureau (SDFB) is encouraging farmers and ranchers to submit comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its new plan for monarch butterfly protection, which could have far-ranging effects on the use of agricultural herbicides necessary for weed control.
The EPA has set a deadline of Aug. 24 for the public to comment on its white paper, “Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly.” In the paper, the agency states that the “focus of this effort will be on reducing the potential indirect effects to the monarch butterfly from herbicide impact on milkweed plants” and that “its effort should not be limited to looking at just one or two herbicides, but across a number of herbicides.”
“It’s not the desire to protect the monarch that is troubling to us, but the undue influence that environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and others seem to have on these EPA endeavors,” said Scott VanderWal, third-generation farmer and beef cattle producer from Volga, S.D. and SDFB President.
Farm Bureau is concerned that environmental organizations, particularly those opposed to the use of pesticides, appear to be using the monarch butterfly as a way to attack the use of pesticides and, in some cases, GMOs. For instance, even though the EPA ultimately denied a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) asking the agency to “take actions to reduce the use of the herbicide glyphosate” due to its purported impact on milkweed, EPA states in this white paper that its monarch risk management approach is “in line with the objectives of the NRDC petition.”
In official comments submitted by the American Farm Bureau Federation on this matter, Dale Moore, Executive Director Public Policy, writes, “We disagree with EPA’s characterization and strongly urge that this comment either be stricken from the risk management approach or be substantially modified. The goal of the NRDC petition, in our view, was not to protect the monarch butterfly; we believe NRDC, like other organizations that are opposed to the use of pesticides, is utilizing the monarch as a means to an end: the goal of the petition was to reduce the use of glyphosate. EPA should not, even indirectly, indicate that its risk management approach is in line with a policy that the agency has not – and should not – endorse. Glyphosate is an approved pesticide that has undergone rigorous evaluation by the agency. The agency should not imply that it agrees with a petition that it is designed to curtail or eliminate its use. We strongly urge that the agency strike this phrase from the risk management paper.”
In the white paper, the EPA outlines a far-ranging set of initiatives to protect milkweed—changes in herbicide labels relating to rate of application, decreasing the allowable frequency of application or modifying its timing, or establishing spray drift buffers. If EPA identified a “critical milkweed resource” adjacent to or near a farmer’s field, the farmer’s ability to control weed pressure on those crops could be restricted.
“Several times in its white paper the EPA states that it will take a ‘balanced approach’ that will balance the need for weed management with the goal of assisting monarch populations, and we’re going to hold them to it. We expect a fair, transparent, science-based process that asks for the input of agriculture and truly listens to what we as farmers and ranchers have to say,” VanderWal added.