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Ag Department Quits Tracking Pesticide Use

May 23, 2008

Seattle, WA – Despite Americans' growing concerns about food safety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to stop publishing a national survey that, since 1990, has tracked pesticides and weed killers used on farm crops. The agency says ending the project will save $8 million a year, helping to compensate for budget cuts.

Patti Goldman, an attorney and vice president of litigation for Earthjustice, says the federal government hasn't done a great job of reporting pesticide use, and canceling this survey only underscores the problem.

"What's unfortunate about losing this data is, it's all we have. We shouldn't be losing the little bit of information people can access to discover what chemicals are being used near their homes. We need better reporting, not the loss of the only reporting we have."

Goldman adds, the surveys have been an important source of information, since most states do not require farmers to report the chemicals they use.

"That is the kind of information we really need. Now, if I want to know if a toxic pesticide is being used by the farm next to my house, there will be no way I can find that information, because a farmer is not required to report that."

Goldman is involved in several lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not doing enough to take dangerous pesticides off the market. The survey is one tool used by the EPA to help decide how farm chemicals should be regulated. The USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service says consumers and farmers can get similar information from private sources.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA