USDA cuts budget to its pesticide use data program: no budget, no data, no public information about agriculture chemical use

A coalition of public interest groups including NRDC, the Center for Food Safety, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and The Organic Center came together to protest budget cuts that will kill the collection and public reporting of pesticide use data by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

In a letter sent today to USDA Secretary Schafer and signed by 45 prominent public interest groups including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, and Consumers Union, the coalition argued that the 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

NASS has regularly collected and published agricultural chemical use data since at least 1991 but has dramatically scaled back its program in recent years.  First, the agency replaced its annual surveys of major field crops with biennial ones.  Then, in the 2007 growing season, data collection was limited to just three crops—cotton, apples and organic apples.  Now, NASS has taken the most drastic step—announcing that it will not collect agricultural chemical use data on any crops during the 2008 growing season.

The coalition letter was released today, the day before the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases its scaled-back annual report on 2007 pesticide use in American agriculture, a coalition of 44 environmental, sustainable farming, and health advocacy organizations called on USDA to reverse its plan to eliminate its pesticide reporting program in 2008. 

Elimination of USDA’s objective data will open the door wide to serious misinformation on pesticide use, charge the groups. 

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Federal Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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