Pesticide bill advances

LIHUE — A bill that seeks to make a voluntary pesticide disclosure program mandatory made it through its final stage of review in the Senate. 

But Senate Bill 1037 did not advance without undergoing substantial changes. 

Namely, most agricultural users who use pesticides within a year would have to disclose.

Sen. Ron Kouchi, D, Kauai-Niihau, who voted in favor of the amendments, said one of them would make it mandatory for all persons or entities that cultivate crops within a single county in any calendar year, rather than just those that cultivate on at least 200 acres, to disclose all pesticide use monthly for the preceding month by July 1, 2016. 

“The chair (of the Senate committee) basically said that, if pesticides are a concern, then we should know who’s doing what in all the instances,” Kouchi said.  

The amendments would also require the Department of Agriculture, rather than the Department of Health, to collect all of the pesticide use data and post it on the department’s website, along with any violations, by Oct. 1, 2016. 

The new changes also doubled the original $250,000 amount earmarked for the Department of Agriculture “because of the amount of additional work that they’ll have to do,” Kouchi said.  

Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser said he did not agree with the all changes but acknowledged that moving the bill forward and working on future amendments later is key. 

“This bill, in my opinion, is an imperfect vehicle, but there’s time to improve and expand it,” Hooser said. “We can add buffer zones in, we can add better disclosure requirements in, and we can add a threshold requirement, because right now, it affects small farmers and I don’t believe it should.” 

Other residents and companies don’t see it that way and say the bill may end up hurting the agricultural industry in the state and impose burdensome restrictions on top of existing federal and state laws. 

“By imposing these mandatory pesticide disclosure requirements without accompanying public education on federal and state pesticide oversight and regulation, this may result in an increase in the number of inquiries, complaints, and non-science based comments and concerns,” said Paul Oshiro, spokesman for Alexander and Baldwin, Inc., a large, private landholding company based in Honolulu.

Cindy Goldstein, industry relations manager for DuPont Pioneer, said “farmers understand the importance of good stewardship practices, with judicious use of pesticides and management practices that reduce pests.”

“While there are many users of pest control products, (the bill) narrowly targets a small group of pesticide users, subjecting these farm operations to frequent and onerous reporting rules,” Goldstein said. “This is bad policy and precedent.”

As of late Wednesday, no specific date was set on when the amended bill will be heard before the full Senate body.

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