A Promising Development

August 3rd, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on A Promising Development

Ten days ago McClatchy Newspapers had an interesting article that probably made very few headlines anywhere else, but certainly looks like a significant development, particularly in our industry. As McClatchy reports, “our nation’s farmers could face severe restrictions on the use of pesticides as environmentalists, spurred by a favorable ruling from a judge in Washington state, want the courts to force federal regulators to protect endangered species from the ill effects of agricultural chemicals.” Below are a few more key excerpts from the article:

The eight-year-old ruling by a federal judge in Seattle required the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Environmental Protection Agency to review whether 54 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were jeopardizing troubled West Coast salmon runs. The agencies moved recently to restrict the use of three of the chemicals, including a widely used one with the trade name Sevin, near bodies of water that flow into salmon-bearing streams, and they’re considering restrictions on 12 additional chemicals. The Washington State Department of Agriculture says such restrictions would prevent pesticide use on 75 percent of the state’s farmland.

Dan Newhouse, the director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, who farms hops, apples, cherries and other row crops on 600 irrigated acres in the Yakima Valley, said that if the courts ordered far-reaching restrictions, “farmers across the country will have significantly fewer tools at their disposal to manage plant pests and disease.”

Manufacturers of agriculture chemicals have threatened to sue the EPA, alleging that the agency’s method of crafting restrictions is riddled with “major flaws” and the industry wasn’t asked to participate. Newhouse said there was so much uncertainty that it was impossible to tell how widespread or dramatic the effects of tighter restrictions might be. In Washington state, however, he said, “I am coming to believe every farmer would be impacted one way or another.”

The companies that manufacture the three pesticides at the heart of the controversy argue that if the chemicals are used properly they won’t jeopardize endangered or threatened species. The industry also has argued that pesticides help maintain habitat for endangered species by controlling the spread of noxious and harmful weeds, pointing to endangered orchids that have thrived in various rights-of-ways that have been sprayed with herbicides.

Yep, they’re whining pretty loudly about the inability to farm without having access to these pesticides, and yet every day thousands of organic farmers work their crops effectively and efficiently without using any chemicals. To read the full article, you can click here.