What’s sprayed on your island? House committee to hear pesticide disclosure bill

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An attempt to address pesticide disclosure at a statewide level will be heard today before the House Committee on Agriculture.

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An attempt to address pesticide disclosure at a statewide level will be heard today before the House Committee on Agriculture.

The original form of the bill, which crossed over from the Senate earlier this month, dealt only with the Department of Agriculture’s pesticide use revolving fund, which is used to support registration, licensing, certification and compliance monitoring. It called for an increase to the amount of money in the fund but did not specify an amount.

Senate Bill 804’s current form also includes the revolving fund increase. It was substantially updated to include mandatory pesticide disclosure.

Although SB 804 cleared its chamber in its first form, a House bill that called for more disclosure proved to be a more controversial measure and did not make it to crossover.

The new language in SB 804 draws largely on that of the failed House bill, although it eliminates a section that would have allowed county pesticide regulations to pre-empt the state-level ones as well as a section requiring advance notice of pesticide application.

According to Civil Beat, the proposed changes were made by Agriculture Committee chairman Richard Creagan, D-Naalehu, Ocean View, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona. Creagan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Creagan, along with Big Island Reps. Nicole Lowen and Cindy Evans, co-signed the original House bill, HB 790, which was introduced by Oahu Rep. Chris Lee.

“We’ve heard for years from residents on a number of islands that their families are being exposed to pesticides which are having an impact on their health and safety,” Lee said.

As presented now, SB 804 would make mandatory the guidelines that are part of the Kauai Good Neighbor Program, a program that asks large-scale agriculture business to report the names of restricted-use pesticides they spray on crops. Participation in the Kauai program is voluntary, however.

“That provided the first data (points), but it’s incomplete because it’s a voluntary program,” Lee said.

“What we don’t know is if key information is being left out intentionally or otherwise,” he said. “The (House) bill … would require those companies spraying large amounts of restricted-use pesticides near communities to disclose what they’re spraying, when and where, so that we actually assess whether or not there’s a meaningful impact in our community.”

During House hearings, testimony was divided, with many opponents stating the measure would impose undue costs.

Bennette Misalucha, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, said in written testimony that pesticide toxicity already was “carefully evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before allowing it to be sold for use. … To require additional notifications and reporting is unnecessary and places increased costs on farmers, at a time when agriculture is already besieged by other challenges.”

The DOA neither supported nor opposed the bill, but commented that it would increase costs to the department because of a need to hire personnel to track record-keeping and compliance.

A Kauai fact-finding commission report on pesticide usage, funded by the DOA and Kauai County, was published last May. DOA director Scott Enright said during a press conference last year that the report found “no environmental or public health problems that could be demonstrated at this time.”

The issue of pesticide use in Hawaii “obviously is not new,” Lee said. Still, he said that in recent years bills are moving “farther now than they ever have before.”

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“Certainly there’s more attention from the public than ever before,” Lee said. “There’s overwhelming support in the general public to put health and safety first, before the interests of companies spraying pesticides or anything else.”

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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