March 5, 2013

Md. Farm Bureau’s stance on pesticide bill seems out of step with national organization

Leo Horrigan, MHS

Leo Horrigan, MHS

CLF Correspondent

Center for a Livable Future

The Maryland Farm Bureau’s opposition to a pesticide reporting bill in Maryland seems out of step with policy statements made by the national organization with which it is affiliated, the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The goal of the Maryland bill is pretty straightforward:  Create a centralized database of pesticide use in the state so researchers can study the effects of these chemicals on human health and the environment.  It seems like a difficult proposition to quibble with, because farmers already collect this information, and compliance would involve no additional costs for farmers (notwithstanding the Maryland Farm Bureau’s false statements to the contrary).

Even the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) seems to support, in general, the idea of collecting information about pesticide use.  I developed this distinct impression from reading these excerpts from AFBF’s Farm Bureau Policies for 2012:

  •  EPA should consider actual use data [emphasis added] in its risk assessment process to support pesticide registrations and avoid decisions based on worst case assumptions;
  • EPA must … not revoke tolerances unless tolerance reassessments are based on actual pesticide use and usage information.

We [the AFBF] support:

  • The consideration of both the risks and the benefits of pesticides in the evaluation of chemical products;
  • Increased research by USDA, in the use of computer modeling, to predict pesticide migration;
  • Liability for groundwater contamination caused by pesticides be based on levels supported by competent, scientific evidence that show actual harm to human health.

These seem like reasonable proposals.  It also seems pretty obvious they would be impossible to implement without some kind of reporting system on pesticide use.  So, while the AFBF is not exactly an eager proponent of pesticide reporting, the above statements would seem to indicate the national organization is at least open to it – as a necessary evil, if nothing else.

The Maryland Farm Bureau contends that it opposes the pesticide reporting bill because it creates additional burdens on farmers and will raise the price of pesticides they need, but both of these statements are false.  In reality, our state’s Farm Bureau has taken a stand against transparency and against the free flow of information that has important implications for the public’s health and the health of our environment – a stance that seems more rigid than even the American Farm Bureau would support.

The very farmers whom the Farm Bureau purports to represent are on the front lines when it comes to the public health impacts of pesticides.  They probably have the most to gain from a bill like this one becoming law.

The Pesticide Reporting and Information Act was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly as both SB675 and HB775.  The Senate held a hearing on the bill today.

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