The Bush administration is killing a longstanding program that publishes free the information it gathers on the application of pesticides and fertilizer by U.S. farmers. Reporters who want to update their audiences on cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water or the cause of "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico are just out of luck.
The Bush Agriculture Department claims it does not have the money to share the information with the public. The program, which costs about $8 million yearly, compares with a 2008 Farm Bill price tag of about $300 billion. That's billion with a "b."
"The canceled program was the only one to make freely available to the public nationwide data on the amount of pesticides and fertilizers applied to U.S. farms," reported Erika Engelhaupt in Environmental Science & Technology. "In May, USDA announced that it had published the last of its Agricultural Chemical Usage reports, which are based on detailed surveys of farmers' chemical use, collected since 1990 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). In an unusual alliance, industry and environmental groups are lobbying USDA and Congress to restore the program, which costs $8 million out of an annual NASS budget of $160 million. The program had many users and supporters in academia, industry, environmental and community groups, and government agencies."
The Senate Appropriations Committee has urged the administration to reinstate the program.
"Government Pesticide and Fertilizer Data Dropped," Environmental Science & Technology, July 30, 2008, by Erika Engelhaupt.
Agricultural Chemical Usage Reports, National Agricultural Statistics Service.