Are farmers overusing chemicals on their farms?

Farmers carefully evaluate crop conditions before applying any type of crop production measures. Such applications are expensive, and labels are carefully followed to avoid adverse consequences. Farmers also look to their local crop extension service or crop consultants for recommendations before applying crop protection or fertilizer. In some cases, over applying can do more harm than good (i.e. applying too much fertilizer to corn post emergence can cause leaf damage).

If farmers overuse these tools and hurt their own land, their businesses would suffer and eventually fail. Bad, toxic or depleted soil doesn’t grow good crops. Also, these tools cost a lot of money – farmers try to use as little as possible to save costs. Farmers are stewards of the environment, considering factors like ground water, runoff and pollution. They continually think about the consequences to avoid pollution.  They strive to savor the land’s quality for future farming generations.

Farmers and spray operators follow regulations put forth by the EPA. The EPA and the states (usually that state's agriculture office) register or license pesticides for use in the United States. EPA receives its authority to register pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Farmers document everything they use.

Over the past few decades, farmers have been able to use fewer inputs while increasing yields.

  • In 2008, roughly 516 million pounds of active ingredients were applied to U.S. cropland at a cost of roughly $12 billion. In comparison, in 1980, roughly 632 million pounds of active ingredients were applied. Usage went down – while yields went up.
  • Since its peak in 1981, the use of pesticides by the US agricultural market sector decreased from 632 million pounds, to 516 million pounds in 2008.

USFRA Point of View

Insects, weeds and plant diseases are serious threats that can devastate crops. Throughout history, farmers have found ways to manage these threats or see their livelihood – and a lot of food – destroyed. Each year farmers face tough management decisions, especially when it comes to the best route... Read more