Agricultural pesticide use in the United States has made it possible for farmers to produce a great volume of food. Chemical pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, etc. and chemicals such as plant growth regulators) have allowed farmers to reduce human labor costs in production, and remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace. However, this success in productivity has often been to the detriment of wildlife and the environment in many regions of the country. Many areas, for example, have experienced pesticide contamination of surface and ground waters.
In addition to environmental problems, human health problems also arise from agricultural pesticide usage. Farmworkers and farmers have experienced chronic, long-term health problems from exposure to agricultural chemicals, and there are been numerous cases of acute, or emergency health problems resulting from pesticide exposure. Additionally, consumers have long been concerned about the presence of pesticide residues in their foods.
Many farmers are seeking new ways to curb pesticide usage in order to address the many concerns. Leading farmers are seeking new approaches to pest problems by employing integrated pest management (IPM). A growing culture of innovation addressing environmental and human health concerns is taking root.
Vision for the Future
In our vision, farmers and ranchers rely on biologically intensive and ecologically sensible pest management practices. By using a biologically based system of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and a system wide approach as described in the list below, producers will increase their bottom line through reduced reliance on expensive chemical inputs. Food Alliance also believes IPM practices will continue to gain value and recognition in the marketplace, as food buyers increasingly support suppliers of goods who work to preserve the environment and reduce health hazards.
Broad strategies to achieve this vision:
- Use IPM techniques to prevent and avoid pest problems and the need for treatments.
- Use soil quality indicators, conservation tillage, and crop rotation to build soil health as a means of preventing soil born pestilence.
- Collect data on crops during harvest in order to test the effects of these strategies.
- Create habitat around fields to support beneficial insects and natural predators.
- Monitor populations of insect pests AND predators: Allow natural pest control to operate and use cultural practices that support natural pest control.
- Use plant protectants, insect traps, and other non-toxic strategies.
- Select pest control measures that are consistent with monitoring activities and that target the problem pest.
- Select pesticides that are low toxicity or risk.
- Adopt chemical application and storage practices designed to reduce environmental impacts, such as drift prevention, equipment calibration, weather monitoring, etc.
- Ensure that farmers, ranchers and farmworkers receive training on how to apply pesticides safely and make better decisions in selecting pesticides.
- Eliminate any use of high toxicity pesticides found on the Food Alliance Prohibited Pesticide List.
List of Evaluation Criteria and Goals
Continuing Education: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers that train and educate managers and workers about lower risk materials and strategies to reduce pesticide usage.
IPM Planning and Establishing New Plantings: Higher scores are awarded on this criterion when managers select varieties and site locations to minimize pesticide applications and environmental impacts.
Weather Monitoring: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers who monitor the weather to prevent pesticides from leaving the cropping system.
Crop Monitoring/Field Scouting: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers for monitoring crops at harvest in order to assess the effectiveness of pesticide reduction strategies.
Lowest Effective Application Rates/Reducing Application Rates: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers that employ strategies to reduce the material applied per acre.
Pesticide Selection and Resistance Management: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers who select lower risk pesticides, and rotate the materials used in order to prevent pesticide resistance.
Pesticide Record Keeping: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers who keep accurate records of pesticide applications: beyond those required by law; including IPM scouting and targeting of pests; and tabulate toxicity rankings to demonstrate success in reducing toxicity.
Application Equipment Calibration and Pesticide Drift Management: Higher scores are awarded to farmers/ranchers that regularly calibrate application equipment (in order to prevent over-applications of pesticides) score higher. Higher scores are also awarded for steps taken to prevent pesticide drift.
Hazardous Material Storage and Disposal: Higher scores are awarded to operations that store pesticides in facilities designed to prevent environmental contamination and dispose of empty pesticide containers properly.
Elimination of high toxicity pesticides found on Food Alliance Prohibited Pesticide List