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Over 60 Local Officials Call on the Farm Bill Conference Committee to Reject Local Pesticide Preemption

Preemption House proposal would wipe out communities’ power to prohibit pesticides

WASHINGTON, DC Today, over 60 local officials from across the country have joined together to send a letter to the farm bill conference committee urging the rejection of a poison pill rider that would preempt local governments from setting their own restrictions on toxic pesticides.  

Section 9101 of the House version of the farm bill, would institute federal preemption of local pesticide policies, a move that would overturn decades of precedent set by the Supreme Court and prevent communities from adopting protective laws that meet the needs of their residents or unique local environment.

The letter urges the conference committee to reach an agreement on a final 2018 farm bill that does not include this rider. It was signed by over 60 local officials in 39 communities from 15 different states, ranging from North Miami, FL to South Euclid, OH, West Hollywood, CA and Maui, HI. The City Council of Montgomery County, ME, which passed landmark policies on toxic pesticides, also sent a letter to the farm bill conference committee.

“The Farm Bill should not be a tool for stripping city and county officials of their ability to protect their citizens from pesticides,” said Jason Davidson, Friends of the Earth’s Food and Agriculture Campaign Associate. “States and cities across the country have taken crucial steps to ban harmful pesticides while the federal government has refused to act. We urge conference members to reject this dangerous preemption language, and preserve state and local governments’ ability to protect their communities from toxic chemicals.”  

“The pesticide industry’s attempts to stymie a national grassroots movement against their toxic products is only serving to elevate the voices of local leaders that have seen their communities successfully transition to safer land care practices,” said Drew Toher, Community Resource and Policy Director with Beyond Pesticides. “The farm bill’s preemption provision represents an unacceptable federal overreach into community parks, playing fields, and natural spaces best managed by local decision-makers, not D.C. politicians.” 

“The Farm Bill should be supporting healthy farming and rural communities, not undermining local control,” said Kristin Schafer, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network. “Section 9101 strips away communities’ rights to protect families from dangerous pesticides. It’s completely unacceptable.”

Quotes from Local Officials:

Mayor Ethan Strimling of Portland, ME: “At a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to act, and follow sound science on toxic pesticides like bee-killing neonicotinoids or the probable carcinogen glyphosate, it is critically important local governments retain the right to protect their citizens and environment. The City of Portland deliberately undertook a years-long process, involving considerable debate between a range of stakeholders, before passing legislation to restrict toxic pesticides in favor of organic land care. Removing the rights of communities in Maine and elsewhere to have the same robust debate on this important topic doesn’t represent who we are as a nation. 

City Council President Ben Stuckart of Spokane, Washington: “As someone who has worked on local food issues for the past 6 years it is very important that innovative cities continue to have the ability to lead our federal government when they refuse to act. That is how progress is being made across the country. I have dealt with the federal government over the last 6 years and if you want to get something done you do it locally, not rely on the bureaucracy in Washington, DC.  We will never make progress if that is what our options are. We have done a horrible job as a society taking care of our natural environment.  We must be allowed the option to deal with these issues locally if the Federal government refuses to act.”

Mayor Scott Zerby of the Shorewood, MN: “The City of Shorewood passed an ordinance banning city use of pesticides containing ingredients proven harmful to pollinators by University of Minnesota researchers and other scientists around the country. Pollinators are the very foundation of much of our food supply and the elimination of these products has not changed the beauty or functionality of our city. This issue was raised by our citizens and it should be their right to manage local resources as they believe right if does not deny public safety or damage property. Federal guidelines should remain that and not mandates. We find the alternative products to satisfy the public need as well as what has been used in the past.  We continue to support the approach that it is better to be cautious when managing a precious environmental resource like our beneficial pollinators.”

Recreation and Parks Commission Chairperson Chip Osborne of Marblehead, MA: Marblehead, MA debated the issue of pesticide use on public property 18 years ago. A local policy by the Board of Health has been in place since 2001 and strengthened to a Health Regulation in 2005. This was an important discussion that focused upon synthetic pesticides and how they were regulated by the US EPA. There was not enough confidence in the regulatory system to ensure that the public was in little or no danger from the use of these materials, particularly where children play. It is my firm belief, both as an elected public official and a private homeowner that a local jurisdiction should have the right and the ability to restrict the use of pesticides within the community both on public and private property. I do not believe that the federal government should step in and regulate home rule. The federal government should not supersede states’ rights and ultimately the final right should rest with the local jurisdiction.”

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