New study shows 48,000 jobs could be lost if atrazine is banned

Jul 9, 2010
by WLJ

The sorghum industry would suffer devastating job losses if the agricultural herbicide atrazine is banned, according to University of Chicago economist Don Coursey. It would cost between 21,000 and 48,000 jobs from corn production losses alone. The inclusion of sorghum and sugar cane makes that total even greater.

Coursey estimates atrazine’s annual production value to corn, sorghum and sugar cane to be from $2.3 billion to over $5 billion.

“If all of those jobs were lost in the agriculture sector alone, its unemployment would grow by as much as 2.6 percent,” Coursey said.

The second most-used herbicide in the U.S., atrazine has been a mainstay in sorghum production for 50 years. It is safe, controls a broad range of weeds, and promotes soil-saving conservation-till agriculture.

Because no product that so many are dependent upon has ever been banned, Coursey said the range is wide for suitable replacements, which have a variety of prices and application regimes.

“If atrazine is banned, producers would also lose propazine, which is another important triazine herbicide for sorghum,” said Gerald Simonsen, chairman of the National Sorghum Producers and sorghum grower in Ruskin, NE. “Because there are fewer alternative herbicides available for sorghum, taking atrazine off the market would have a dramatic and costly impact on the U.S. sorghum industry.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reviewed nearly 6,000 studies before re-registering atrazine. In 2006, EPA finished an unprecedented 12-year review that found atrazine to be no threat to health or safety when used appropriately. However, in late 2009, EPA announced an additional, unplanned review of atrazine, citing a New York Times article that described claims from an anti-atrazine group. It was the first time in history EPA initiated a review process without citing sound science. —WLJ