MILWAUKEE — Some of Wisconsin’s largest farm groups are worried federal regulators will expand restrictions on atrazine, a weed killer sprayed on corn fields and other crops.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft ecological risk assessment of atrazine this summer and recommended reducing the allowable levels, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2covFYj ) reported.

Farm groups have asked farmers to contact the EPA and urge the agency to reconsider its stance.

Wisconsin Corn Growers Association officials said the reduced allowable levels would effectively ban the use of the weed killer in nearly 100 herbicide mixes.

“For more than 50 years, atrazine has been a safe and effective crop protection tool to control the spread of resistant weeds and improve crop yields,” said Casey Kelleher, the association’s president. “EPA’s action would drive up the cost of production to Wisconsin corn growers and would reduce our yields.”

Other groups urging the agency to rethink the restrictions include the Cooperative Network, Wisconsin Pork Association, Midwest Food Processors, the Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the Wisconsin Soybean Association.

The groups said the plan is a bad precedent and could harm the environment.

“Atrazine plays an important role in conservation tillage, a farming practice that reduces soil erosion and runoff,” said Tom Liebe, president and CEO of Cooperative Network. “An atrazine ban would require more soil tillage to control profit-robbing weeds and will be a net-negative for the environment.”

Some research has shown that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought and that it may be linked to cancer and birth defects.

Environmental groups have encouraged the EPA to ban the weed killer, and some cities have spent millions of dollars to dilute or filter out atrazine levels from drinking water.

The public can comment on the EPA’s proposed atrazine risk assessment until Oct. 4.


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com