From voluntary to mandatory

LIHUE — The longstanding debate on pesticide disclosure is playing out in the state Legislature as lawmakers consider a measure that seeks to make current, voluntary reporting guidelines mandatory.

“Full disclosure is an essential element for regulating restricted use pesticides,” said Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser, a supporter of the proposed law. “The public is not able to avoid the areas being treated and they do not know when to shut their windows.”

The proposal, Senate Bill 1037, which was co-introduced by Sen. Josh Green, D, Kona Kau, would require that “all persons or entities that cultivate crops on 200 or more acres within a single county in any calendar year shall disclose the use of all pesticides” beginning on July 1, 2016.

Any disclosed reports would include the pesticide’s trade name; commercial product name; active and inert ingredients; gallons or pounds used; the method, date and total quantity of each application; the geographic location of each application; and the total acreage and the area size where the pesticide was used.

The state’s voluntary guidelines went into effect in January of 2014 as Kauai County was trying to implement more restrictive pesticide regulations around the island. The county’s law, Ordinance 960, was overturned by a federal judge and is being appealed.

The proposed law would also require that officials from the state Department of Health post a summary of each monthly report on the department’s website by Oct. 1, 2016.

Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, D, Kalaeloa-Makua, co-introduced the bill. A Senate Committee on Ways and Means public hearing on Senate Bill 1037 is scheduled to be held at 9:05 a.m. today in the State Capitol.

Not everyone agrees additional restrictions on top of existing federal and state laws or guidelines are necessary.

“It is clear that these bills have been developed by non-farmers who do not understand existing pesticide regulations and enforcement nor farmers’ need to control insects, weeds, and disease,” Hawaii Crop Improvement Association Executive Director Bennette Misalucha said. “The bills are designed to unfairly target one segment of Hawaii’s pesticide users — our member company farmers who grow genetically modified crops.”

Sen. Ron Kouchi, D, Kauai-Niihau, said he expects fellow state lawmakers to introduce amendments to the bill and will wait until then to make a decision on the issue.

Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, D, Koloa-Niihau, wrote that she thought the proposed bill was “duplicative of what the Department of Agriculture could do on their reporting site.”

“It’s probably going to require a lot of resources to create this new authority in that department,” she wrote.

Syngenta Hawaii officials agreed and said lawmakers should regulate “the sale and use of over-the-counter pesticides to homeowners and gardeners” to prevent possible threats to public health. They referred to a letter they wrote lawmakers on the issue.

“The intent of this legislation is to demonize commercial agriculture by falsely claiming farmers are responsible for poisoning children … which has become the mantra of the anti-agriculture movement in our state,” Syngenta officials wrote in the unsigned letter. “If one considers the manner of use and the type of pesticides employed today, it’s plain to see why there is little risk to the public from modern commercial agriculture.”

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