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Opinion: A beetle and the EPA want to send my farm back to the stone ages

Pallid Sturgeon, meet the American Burying Beetle. 

I am proud to be a farmer. It’s not easy work, but at my core, it is who I am. I wake up early, go to bed late, and spend countless months planning for the next growing season. Unfortunately, all of that hard work can go down the drain with even the slightest shift in the supply chain. 

So much of farm life relies on the grace of God and factors that we can’t control; we need good weather, good conditions, and good health. We do all that we can to minimize the uncertainties that face us by controlling what we can and preparing for those we can’t. But now, farmers in five Missouri counties — Barton, Vernon, Cedar, St. Clair, and even my own Bates — find themselves at the mercy of our own federal government. All because of a beetle. 

Dane Diehl

Soybean farmers like myself rely on special seeds and herbicides to help us grow crops more efficiently and make environmentally conscious decisions. One such brand is “Enlist.” Enlist herbicides and seeds help us to implement practices, like no-till farming, to produce a better, more sustainable product. But it just so happens that, apparently, our farms are home to some uninvited guests: the American Burying Beetle. This beetle is listed as an endangered species, and the government believes it is susceptible to the Enlist line of herbicides, although recent studies have found little proof to back this statement. 

To protect these beetles, Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered that farmers in these five counties cannot use Enlist products. So, for the sake of a beetle, the EPA has decided to bury farmers instead.

The timing of this decision could not be worse. As I said before, farmers have already spent months planning for the upcoming growing season. We’ve budgeted for our input costs, bought plenty of product, and determined what growing practices would be best for our operations. We are less than two months away from planting season and now all that planning has gone to waste. Many have already bought all the Enlist seed and Enlist herbicide they need for the season, and now the EPA says they may as well throw it all away. Many farmers must repurchase their entire stock of seed and utilize different practices, such as tilling the soil — which depletes the land of vital nutrients and leads to erosion — or have searched out different herbicide-resistant seeds. My fellow farmers and I are stewards of the land. We implement the most efficient practices to produce the best product with as little negative impact as possible. But when the EPA takes away the only tools we have to make a successful growing season, what choice do we have? You are asking us to kill our land to save a beetle, one that might not even be dying in the first place. 

The impacted farmland from the EPA’s decision accounts for 6 percent of all of Missouri’s soybean production. It is important to keep in mind that to the impacted farmers, this decision represents 100 percent of their crop yield potential. It’s easy for scientists and bureaucrats to make this decision with no connection to the people affected by it. I think it is unfair to make this sudden decision and expect farmers to just roll with the punches. 

Through my affiliation with the Missouri Soybean Association and position on their Policy Committee, I’ve be able to encourage action against the EPA — and action is underway. As a farmer and a board member, I urge the EPA to reconsider its decision to prohibit Enlist in these five Missouri counties and to expedite review of the data of Enlist’s impact on the American Burying Beetle. After all, these beetles do not follow our established county lines, and a blanket ban on Enlist products for all five counties–without any reliable evidence of the impact of Enlist on those beetles–does no good for farmers. 

Our farmers, particularly our generational and family farms, are often one bad season away from financial disaster. The American farmer is himself an endangered species, and our government should be working for our preservation, not just a beetle’s.