By Joe Sigg, Arizona Farm Bureau: New information often force changes in the ways we think about things. New technology forces changes in how we do things.
We have lots of new information and technology in agriculture. Because of this, we’re producing more on less acreage with less inputs. For example, cotton is a fruit and like all fruits, it attracts insects. In Arizona we used to spray cotton many times a growing season with insecticides, but now mostly none. Why? Because technology has created seeds which keep insects away.
The cotton plant is known to attract pests galore since it's actually a fruit. Modern technology has improved seed variety to the point that farmers have dramatically reduced the use of pesticides in cotton to nearly zero.
And About those Pesticides …
And speaking of pesticides, you and I have complete freedom and randomness to use them at home whenever we want even going beyond the recommended dosages; not so on the farm. Pesticides (insecticides and herbicides of all classes) for agriculture use have a “restricted use” classification which obviously restricts a pesticide product, or its uses to a certified pesticide applicator or under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Due to product innovations, only 2.3% of the pesticides used today in Arizona agriculture are “restricted use.” But, in addition to this limited use of restricted products, agriculture must have a third-party “prescription” for all pesticide applications and their application requires licensing, whether they are restricted use or not.
This regulation is not required for you and me, the homeowner. So, you and I can apply the very same products in our homes, gardens and yards without any form of regulation whatsoever. And, if we are talking non-restricted pesticides there are many more products available for home use containing restricted-use materials for agriculture.
In agriculture, we are not trying to skip out on regulation for our industry; nor are we trying to increase regulatory authority on homeowners, but just pointing out that the world of agricultural pesticides has changed greatly. We handle them with safety for our employees and the environment, and we apply them with pin-point accuracy and only where indicated because they are expensive.
And don’t think organic farming is exempt from any of this since you may have heard this method of farming doesn’t use pesticides. This is simply not true. The United State Department of Agriculture sanctions a complete list of pesticides and other applications that are approved for us in organic farming with regulatory oversight in application.
The agriculture world has changed and we don’t stop often enough to explain or talk about those changes, and this is just one small part of it. Not using any pesticides, in the home or on the farm, is another discussion, for another day. These are choices. But if we are going to have differences of views, let’s have them over the current and updated circumstances of how commercial agriculture operates today. Let’s not use as a starting point how agriculture might have operated decades ago, with different input products.