The Challenges Ahead

Over the weekend, I was scanning the headlines in my local newspaper when I came across an article detailing the ongoing debate over the approval of methyl iodide. As most readers know, methyl iodide is a pesticide used by growers to sterilize soil before planting sensitive crops such as strawberries. It is a replacement for methyl bromide, which has been found to be damaging to the Earth’s ozone layer. The article talked about the dispute between California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation and a scientist review committee, which claims that the original research accompanying the approval for methyl iodide was “flawed” and that the product could be harmful to humans.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such an article making the rounds. For the past few years, each week brings new questions (and lawsuits) regarding the safety of atrazine, a 50-year-old crop protection product that EPA estimates contributes approximately $2 billion to the nation’s economy. Intermittingly, there have been other tried-and-true agricultural products challenged in the nation’s courts, both legal and public opinion.

Oh, and the Department of Transportation’s temporary waiver of hours of service rules for the transport of anhydrous ammonia have expired. Trade associations are working to make this wavier permanent, but haven’t succeeded yet.

My point in bringing all this up in a short enewsletter is that the industry still has a lot of work to do to protect itself from the attacks of special interest groups. This is particularly true now that the widely-publicized Gulf oil spill has seemingly given environmental activists the upper hand with John Q. Public and the nation’s policymakers.

The ag community will have to continue fighting for its rights and to protect those products that it views as absolutely necessary to produce the food our growing world population needs to survive. In this sense, we still many challenges ahead in the months and years to come.

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