- To prepare their fields for planting, many Wisconsin farmers use a harsh weed killer called glyphosate; it's the same active-ingredient found in Roundup.
In a recent lawsuit, a California couple was awarded more than $2 billion after a jury found that same chemical gave them cancer. Bayer, the parent company of Roundup maker Monsanto, was found at fault.
The potential dangers of herbicides have led at least one local farmer to avoid them. He feels his crops can thrive without them.
At his home in Sugar Camp, Brendan Tuckey practices what he calls "regenerative agriculture."
"We've never wanted to use chemicals on our crops so weeds have been an issue," said Tuckey.
To manage those unwanted plants, Tuckey says he doesn't till his soil and covers it when it's not being used.
"Because you're not turning over the soil you're not bringing up weeds seeds from underneath," said Tuckey. "Weed seeds that are in your soil kind of keep getting covered up."
Tuckey believes his natural methods are better than using harsh weed killers, but he knows they're widely used elsewhere.
"Unfortunately it's very integrated into our farming systems," said Tuckey.
A new survey from the National Agricultural Statistics Service found that 97% of corn and 98% of soybean crops across Wisconsin were treated with chemical herbicides in 2018. NASS reported that 42% of corn and 67% of soybean crops in the state were specifically treated with glyphosate.
UW-Extension Agricultural Development Educator Dan Marzu says state laws regulating herbicides can be strict and that user instructions always come with clear warnings.
"Some pesticides we can't use at all, others we just follow whatever's on the label," said Marzu.
According to Marzu, there's little chance those harmful chemicals could end up in your food.
"So there are an amount of days the pesticide actually breaks down, the active ingredient actually breaks down," said Marzu.
However, the more those chemicals are used, the more people like Tuckey worry negative side-effects will appear. He's made it his goal to show people farming can still be done the "natural" way.
"Just show that you can produce food without these chemicals … and it's much better for your family, it's much better for your customers," said Tuckey.
In his role with UW-Extension, Marzu said he teaches farmers preventative methods for fighting weeds and insects naturally but he still recommends using chemicals as a secondary treatment method.