Too often legislators and regulators in their zeal to be seen as protecting public interest, ignore existing regulations and requirements. That is true of the Department of Ecology’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit issued in January, 2017 and is certainly true of a new bill introduced in this legislative session.

Despite what anti-farm activists like to say, farmers don’t oppose regulations that are effective at protecting water, the environment, health, safety or anything else in the public interest. But farmers do oppose unnecessary, redundant and ineffective regulations or laws that do little or nothing except add more costs and burdens on farmers working hard to survive.

House Bill 1564 is a great example of this. It not only ignores existing, effective regulations regarding pesticides, it introduces new measures that would unnecessarily add to neighbor concerns and others that would likely contribute to less safe applications. It clearly was written by those unfamiliar with current regulations and farm practices.

We encourage all those concerned about preserving the future of our farmers to write our state legislative representatives and help inform them of the facts of this troubling bill.

To: Hon. Representatives Ortiz-Self, Robinson, Stonier, Riccelli, Ryu, Fitzgibbon, Marci, Sells, Cody, Pettigrew
cc: Rep. Buys, Rep. Van Werven, Sen. Ranker

Subject: HB 1564

Dear Representatives,

We wish to comment on HB 1564, concerning pesticide exposure and notification of certain pesticide applications. This bill requires notification to neighbors of impending pesticide applications, as well as extensive reporting by pesticide users to the Department of Health. Our crop farmers, together with Washington State’s berry growers, who would be dramatically impacted by this bill.

We all agree with the purpose of the bill, to protect farmworkers and others from pesticide exposure. However well-intentioned, this bill will not improve farmworkers’ health, and will needlessly burden their employers and neighbors with redundant paperwork. Please consider the following:

1) The bill appears completely ignorant of USEPA’s Worker Protection Standard, and particularly ignores features of the revised Standard to be implemented in 2017 and 2018. The USEPA is the chief federal agency in charge of regulating agricultural pesticide application in the US, and as such publishes and periodically updates the Worker Protection Standard, a body of procedures required by law for the protection of Agricultural workers ( safety/revisions-worker- protection-standard). The recently revised Standard includes additional training requirements, mandatory posting, no-entry application exclusion zones, additional mandatory record keeping, and numerous other requirements. In developing the revised Standard, EPA sought comment over an extended period from a wide variety of stakeholders, and the Standard has been carefully developed to be both effective and manageable. EPA, and the designated training and enforcement agency in Washington, the WSDA, have devoted considerable resources to make pesticide applicators aware of the new requirements and of their obligations. If you want to help Washington’s farmworkers, we suggest that you find additional funding for the WSDA’s excellent training program on EPA’s revised Standard, rather than passing this redundant, burdensome bill.

2) Much of the record keeping mentioned in the bill is already required by the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide applicator’s licensing program. This bill would require extensive, redundant and expensive additional reporting to the Department of Health.

3) This bill would require neighbor notification regardless of whether the area to be treated is truly near the neighbor’s property or not. If a farmer plans to treat 20 acres on the west side of his 100 acre property, why should he be required to notify neighbors to the east? In addition, how is the neighbor to interpret this information? It just doesn’t make sense.

4) This bill disregards the impacts of weather on pesticide applications. It’s common to plan to make an application the next day, only to cancel at the last minute because of rain, wind or an inversion. The opposite also happens: a forecast for bad weather turns out to be wrong, and a farmer can take advantage of an unanticipated window to spray safely. This bill would perversely pressure applicators to apply pesticides when they’ve provided notification, even if conditions are marginal. This could actually increase the incidence of drift events.

We applaud the interest in protecting farmworkers, but this bill is not the way to do it. It doesn’t seem written by people having real-world experience with pesticide applications. Please get more support for the WSDA to implement EPA’s revised worker protection standard instead.


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