> Focus On Agriculture

A New Rat Race?

John Walt Boatright

Director, Government Affairs

photo credit: Right Eye Digital, Used with Permission

No, this is not an amended take on our hectic daily schedules, nor is it a preview to the sequel of the mediocre 2001 comedy film.

This, quite literally, is about rats. And the race to limit the ability of individuals and businesses to control them and other destructive and prolific rodents.

The Environmental Protection Agency seeks to drastically curtail how we manage rodent populations in the United States. It’s part of a broader effort to consider any adverse effects on wildlife species and habitats when evaluating the continued use of pesticides. Under the Endangered Species Act, these chemicals must be reviewed at regular intervals, with consultations among agency professionals and stakeholders to assess environmental impacts and potential threats to wildlife.

For many years, due to a workload that does not match agency resources, EPA has struggled to meet this obligation. After multiple lawsuits, EPA has now changed its tune, undertaking a new process for issuing regulations intended to protect wildlife that is not supported by science and has proven to be unrealistic for applicators.

Rodents can wreak enormous havoc at each stage of the food production process.

The stakes for America’s farmers and ranchers are high. Rodents can wreak enormous havoc at each stage of the food production process. If left unchecked, they can damage crops, infiltrate feed supplies, harass livestock and spread disease.

Farmers and ranchers are not alone in facing a future with stricter limitations on rodent control methods. These new regulations will affect pest control companies, restaurants, schools, childcare and assisted living facilities, city subways, parks and other recreation areas, and other establishments that must keep pest populations at bay.

Losing access to rodenticides rewinds us back to the days of classroom history lessons, when teachers regaled young students with stories of frequently treacherous ocean voyages. The voyages were perilous not solely because of the high seas or swashbuckling pirates, but because of deadly illness spread by stowaway rats.

Fast forwarding to today, we should take into account the lessons of previous plagues. We must have effective tools to combat the real hazards posed by rampant pest populations.

Destructive and disease-causing pests are nothing new in daily life on the farm. Rodents affect the rest of society too in myriad ways. Unfortunately, EPA’s flawed proposal on rodenticides bodes poorly for the hundreds of other pesticides that could face a similar fate.

That’s why Farm Bureau continues to challenge EPA on this troubling approach, encouraging more opportunities for substantive stakeholder consultation and emphasizing the importance of the best available science when restrictions on pesticide use are considered.

EPA must preserve modern scientific innovation and keep us in the race against rodent pests. Addressing environmental challenges by making it more difficult and costly to control rodents is not an acceptable answer.