The government shutdown is creating a backlog of chemicals needed to produce the steady supply of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides American farmers count on to keep pests from destroying their crops.
Many of the ingredients needed to produce these pesticides are imported. Normally, once these chemicals arrive at U.S. ports, Environmental Protection Agency personnel review and process the shipments before they are released to customs officials and shipped out to manufacturing companies. But since these EPA inspectors are among those furloughed during the government shutdown, millions of dollars’ worth of chemicals are now being held in arrival ports.
“It’s a specific form that the importer must file with EPA. EPA must approve that, compare it to its list of registered products, send it back to the importer so that it can be released by the customs official at the port of entry. None of those notices of arrival are being processed during the government shutdown,” said Ray McAllister, senior director of regulatory policy for the industry trade group CropLife America. “There are products that have already arrived being held that cannot be released. There are a number of other shipments that could arrive any day now.”
McAllister said this bottleneck could cause delays in production that would ripple through the farming industry. CropLife America’s members include Monsanto, Dupont and Dow Agrosciences.
“Much of the corn crop in the U.S. is treated with fungicides and then insecticides before it’s planted,” McAllister said. “That corn seed is being harvested now for planting next year and it will be treated with these fungicides and insecticides. Some of those might be delayed and not available for the treatment process to begin.”
McAllister said unless the shutdown ends soon, spring planting could be delayed. His group is also working on getting the government to pull dozens of EPA staff off furlough in the next few days to deal with the chemical backlog.