Moving forward on pesticide legislation

Last week, House Bill 790 died in the Legislature because it was contrary to the Federal 9th Circuit Court ruling, exceeded the recommendations of the Kauai Joint Fact Finding Study group, and would hurt the agriculture industry large and small.

At this point, we all need to look forward together and find a rational and effective way to protect both our farmers who use pesticides responsibly and our communities who want to protect their families from potentially harmful effects of chemical exposure.

First, a little background.

Kauai legislators and Mayor Bernard Carvalho working with the Department of Agriculture initiated the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program in November 2013. The good neighbor program has four components:

1. Outreach to adjacent neighbors;

2. Pre-pesticide application notification of Restricted Use Pesticides to schools, hospitals, and medical clinics;

3. Post-pesticide application reporting of Restricted Use Pesticides on a monthly basis;

4. Minimum buffer zones for schools, medical facilities, residential properties, and waterways.

That same year, the Legislature passed House Bill 673, which is now in Hawaii Revised Statutes 149A-31-2 Pesticide Use; Posting Online. This law says the DOA shall publish on its website the public information continued in all restricted use pesticide records, reports, or forms submitted to the department, except those records, reports, or forms required by the department for restricted use pesticides used for structural pest control.

If you look on the website of the Hawaii Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, you will see this reporting occurs in a fairly timely manner by the large Kauai businesses.

HB 790 HD2 went beyond the scope of the Kauai Good Neighbor Program with provisions that would hurt the farming community.

1. It broadened the scope, beyond restricted use pesticides, to include general use pesticides that would have a major impact to our local farmers;

2. It gave the counties the possibility of enacting laws to regulate pesticides, even though the federal court rules that this is a state and federal responsibility;

3. It required fumigation companies to do mandatory disclosure;

4. It required hospitals to notify all patients when general, not restricted, use pesticides are sprayed;

5. It required all schools (public, private, preschool, nurseries) to notify all parents and guardians when general, not restricted, use pesticides are sprayed. Schools of higher education would have to notify all adult students.

There is strong sentiment among our colleagues that we should complete state-funded studies now underway and base future public policy on sound data as it relates to our state.

Moving forward, we support the following actions:

1. Making the outreach program mandatory. If you’re living next to a field where restricted use pesticides are being sprayed, you should have information about what’s being sprayed and when along with a contact name and number for questions or concerns. This was not being done prior to the DOA adoption of this program;

2. Making the pre- and post-pesticide application disclosure program mandatory. The DOA has already committed to making this a statewide program targeted to large commercial operators. This can be done via statute; or it can be done by rules;

3. Ensuring that all future decisions regarding buffer zones and future state regulations be done based on sound data.

Additionally, there are currently two pieces of legislation that will help implement the Joint Fact-Finding recommendations.

HB 889 HD1 triples the pesticide licensing fee; changes the renewal period from three to one year; and establishes environmental toxicologist and pesticide extension specialist positions in the DOA.

SB 778 SD1 makes an appropriation to implement the recommendations of the Kauai Joint Fact-Finding Group by large agribusinesses on Kauai. Public support of these two measures are welcome.

Let’s work together to find solutions to the pesticide issue that are based on facts and sound data to protect both our hard working farmers and our precious families.

•••

Reps. Dee Morikawa and Nadine Nakamura and James Tokioka represent Kauai.

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