Over the past few years, it’s become harder to access several sources of useful, up-to-date information about the substances we’re exposed to. There were the EPA library closures; the changes in Toxics Release Inventory reporting requirements; and a dramatic slowdown in the pace of Integrated Risk Information System assessments. Now, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has announced it will not be collecting agricultural chemical usage data on 2008 field crops.
Today, 45 prominent public interest groups – including NRDC, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Consumers Union – have written to USDA Secretary Ed Shafer to urge the restoration of this important information:
NASS’s Agricultural Chemical Usage reports are the only reliable, publicly available source of data on pesticide and fertilizer use outside of California. Elimination of this program will severely hamper the efforts of the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), land grant scientists, and state officials to perform pesticide risk assessments and make informed policy decisions on pesticide use. In particular, USDA and EPA will have difficulty tracking their progress in meeting their policy commitments to reduce the use of hazardous pesticides through adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices and to support IPM research.
Many of the undersigned organizations are regular, and in some cases heavy, users of pesticide data from the NASS program. In addition, we all depend upon NASS’s objective data to educate the public about pesticide use and represent the public interest in pesticide and pest management policy decisions.
NASS’s objective and reliable data are critical to sound policy decisions on pesticide use. They are also the only publicly available resource to counter misinformation about pesticide usage and trends in American agriculture.
This decision might have been made in order to save money, but the result will be less information for those working to protect human health and the environment.