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HB 487: Weakening Pesticide Regulations—2020

Summary: HB 487 would weaken ISDA's statutory authority to protect farm workers and Idaho communities from aerial and ground-based pesticide spraying.

ICL's position: Neutral

Current Bill Status: Vetoed

Issue Areas: Agriculture

Official Legislative Site

UPDATE 3-27-20

Governor Little Vetoed House Bill 487a, as amended.

UPDATE 3-12-20

An Amendment proposed in the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee would retain prohibitions on “ineffective and improper pesticides” and “careless application” of pesticides.

In addition, the amendment would eliminate the requirement to revisit rules every 5 years.

Based on these changes, ICL is neutral on the bill and appreciates the compromise proposal.

UPDATE 3-18-20

Amended bill adopted by Senate and House.

A lobbyist representing the Idaho Agriculture Aviation Association (aka crop dusters) brought House Bill 487 forward for consideration. The proposal would weaken existing restrictions on spraying of pesticides (aerial and ground-based) by removing the prohibition on “faulty or careless” application. This means only “negligent” application will be prohibited.

The bill also requires all rules related to restrictions and penalties, related to aerial pesticide application, to be reconsidered every 5 years through negotiated rulemaking and adoption by the legislature.

Spraying of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides is common practice in Idaho, but whether it’s done from the ground or the air, must be carried out in a manner to prevent the unintentional drift of these chemicals. As a result, rules are in place to limit spraying when it’s too windy or when farmworkers are present. Those rules were weakened by the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, earlier in the session.

In 2019, local media reported farm workers in Parma were impacted by aerial pesticide application on an adjacent field. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture investigated, but was unable to formally determine fault. Instead ISDA sent a letter to the pilot suggesting that he was operating in a faulty, careless and negligent manner.

The relaxation of Idaho’s rules for aerial spraying comes at the same time that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering relaxing its own rules.

Taken together, the weakening of Idaho rules and statutes, along with federal regulations, will increase health risks to farm workers and others who are exposed to harmful chemicals.

Based on potential unintended consequences of the bill, Representative Sally Toone (D-Gooding) posed several questions to the Idaho Attorney General’s office. Among the findings of the AG analysis, the bill would weaken the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s ability to protect the public from unintended consequences of pesticide application. Specifically, the analysis found the bill “narrows the scope of [ISDA oversight]…which may result in expanding protections for persons accused of misusing pesticides.” The AG also found the bill “would limit [ISDA’s] enforcement authority.”