Lawyers aim to harass and intimidate growers in atrazine issue

Jere White Sep. 16, 2010, 4:33am


Sometimes, individuals and groups decide to stand up for something.

In the case of many crop producers and the associations that represent them, they have decided to stand up for atrazine. Atrazine is a vital herbicide that is under attack by environmentalists, activist researchers, activist media and slick trial attorneys. These well-financed groups worked together last summer to garner enough attention to spur an unscheduled re-review of atrazine by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While farmers use atrazine in smaller and smaller concentrations, it is still an important tool to control weeds, especially in environmentally friendly "conservation" farming practices. For example, using no-till, an increasingly popular conservation farming practice, farmers leave the previous crop stubble on field and plant the next crop in that stubble. This practice reduces runoff and holds on to nutrients and other stuff that helps crop grow in the field.

Atrazine's ability to provide residual weed control makes no-till an option for many farmers. Without it, they'd better grease up the old plow. I read an apt quote on Twitter recently—"If EPA says bye-bye to atrazine, can we get cultivators rolling fast enough?"

Looking at the information above, it's no wonder farmers and farm organizations are standing up for atrazine in a big way. It's no wonder that they work with atrazine's major manufacturer, Syngenta, to support this product.

But recently, many of those organizations have been served with subpoenas from big time trial attorney firms who are hoping to net millions of dollars in judgments from the state and federal court systems. These subpoenas require grower associations to turn over volumes of information to the courts regarding their growers, including all correspondence related to atrazine, Syngenta and even the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

The subpoenas (issued in Madison County lawsuits) come down to one thing, clear and simple: bullying. We can't imagine what kind of useful information they hope to find by looking through membership records, leadership programs or who paid for the ice cream at a farmer's meeting. But the threat of legal harassment might make an organization or an individual think twice about standing up for a product like atrazine.

Since the beginning of the Special Review of the triazine herbicides including atrazine in 1994, our growers have wanted one thing: a science-based outcome through EPA. Is throwing trial attorneys and frivolous subpoenas into the mix a game changer? Will farmers be intimidated and lose their will to support atrazine?

The trial attorneys forgot one thing—farmers are uniquely independent. They stand up to wind, hail, drought, floods, pests and roller coaster markets on a regular basis. Slick attorneys are scary for sure, but we don't scare that easily.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
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