Daily News Archive
From January 10, 2006                                                                                                        

Washington Withdraws its Pesticide Proposal
(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2006) Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials have withdrawn a proposed rule that would have required farmers to provide a 48-hour written notice to schools, nursing homes and other facilities before applying certain pesticides. State Department of Agriculture director Valoria Loveland’s decision, capped three years of meetings with growers, community leaders and environmental groups, as well as four public hearings in Wenatchee, Yakima and Olympia.

According to a news release from the WSDA, the proposed rule would have required pesticide applicators, predominantly orchardists, to notify schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and state-licensed adult or child day care centers 48-hours prior to applying Category I pesticides, which are considered dangerous and toxic.
Growers for crops such as apple, those raising potatoes, Christmas trees and small berries would have been affected by the ruling. According to Ann Wick, the agriculture department's program manager, the proposal would not likely have affected wine grape growers because they normally do not use Catagory I pesticides.

In the release, Loveland said the public hearings and written comments were sharply divided on the value and need for the rule. She said, “The environmental community believed this rule didn't go far enough, while growers thought it created unnecessary regulation when it is already illegal to allow drift of these pesticides,” she said. A study published this past summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed findings of students and school employees being poisoned by pesticide use at schools and from drift off of neighboring farmlands (see Daily News).

Loveland said, “The only real item of consensus in all the written comments and public testimony we received was that our current requirements are appropriate and should be maintained.”

Loveland said two primary factors prompted her decision. The first was ``the rule-making process developed no proposals that met with general agreement, and those organizations that would receive the notifications played little role in developing the proposed rule.' According to Loveland, the department also received very little input from local school and hospital administrators and others despite extensive outreach that requested their participation.

She said, “A follow-up phone survey to principals of 58 schools in the Yakima and Wenatchee areas did not produce any consensus about the value of the proposed rule.” Loveland said the second factor was that people who would have received the additional notification ``may be exposed to liability if they did not adequately pass on the information to their students, patients and customers. It was unclear to them what they would have to do when notified.

An issue impacting the proposed rule is “The department has no enforcement authority or even ability to provide guidance to school districts, nursing homes or other entities about their legal responsibilities under this proposed rule,” she said. “These organizations and businesses would need more direction about what they may be required to do if they receive information about pesticide spraying.”

According to Loveland, the department will now consider proposing a pilot rule similar to that which has been withdrawn to test in a specific geographic area of the state. She said, ``The department will continue to enforce existing notification laws and regulations, as well as those that prohibit pesticide drift that could contaminate adjacent schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other properties.”