(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2009) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) recently released statistics for statewide pesticide use in 2008, while at the same time announcing the suspension of the reporting system, which has only been collecting data since 2007. The Pesticide Use Reporting System (PURS) was suspended until 2013 by House Bill 2999, due to lack of funding. The $800,000 saved will instead be used to fund two investigator positions. Until its reinstatement, officials will be unable to collect data or pursue enforcement related to missing reports from earlier in 2009.
The 2008 PURS report documents agricultural and household pesticide use, which totaled almost 20,000 pounds and 572 different active ingredients. The top five active ingredients, by pounds, were all used in agriculture: metam sodium, glyphosate, 1,3-dichloropropene, sulfuric acid, and aliphatic petroleum hydrocarbons. Agriculture totaled 77 percent of all pesticide use, with urban/general indoor and outdoor uses totaling under four percent. The total used dropped by half from 2007, due in part to improved record keeping and a decline in the use of metam sodium, a popular fumigant in potato production.
In households, pesticide use may be shifting away from the most toxic products. “In 2007, everyone was just grabbing DEET (a mosquito repellent),” said Aimee Code, water quality coordinator for the National Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). The report indicates that some users were trying citronella and castor oil as repellents. “That’s really good to see.”
When the program returns in 2013, it will be altered to require reporting in 95 or 96 specific watershed regions, rather than the 15 geographic regions in the existing reports. “Right now it is so large. Something used in the Willamette water basin could be anywhere from Portland to Eugene,” said Sunny Jones, an ODA pesticide investigator. “People who do the research roll their eyes. This puts it at a scale where researchers can use it.”
Ms. Code hopes the program will return with the legislature’s support. “If we don’t know what pesticides are being used in what amounts, how do we prioritize them?” she said.