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Daily News Blog

08
May

Take Action: Local Authority to Restrict Pesticides under Threat of Federal Preemption in Farm Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2023) The Farm Bill in Congress covers many areas—ranging from the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP) to trade—and the pesticide industry would like to insert a provision that takes away (preempts) local authority to restrict pesticide use—which would undercut the local democratic process to protect public health and safety. Even if communities are not now regulating toxic pesticides, we do not want to close the door on future action, as communities take on petrochemical pesticide and fertilizer use that is contributing to health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency.   

Part 1: Tell your local officials to sign onto a letter opposing the preemption language. Part 2: Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill. 

As Congress drafts the 2023 Farm Bill, there is an opportunity for many topics—good and bad—to be introduced. Dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, which addressed threats posed by the Great Depression and drought, the Farm Bill is an omnibus bill passed every five years. It is designed to secure a sufficient food supply, establish fair food prices for both farmers and consumers, and protect the soil and other natural resources on which farmers depend, but includes much more. In the 117th Congress, H.R. 7266 was introduced to prohibit local governments from adopting pesticide laws that are more protective than federal rules. If such language were to be incorporated into the 2023 Farm Bill as the pesticide industry plans to do, it would overturn decades of precedent as well as prevent local governments from protecting their residents from hazardous chemicals in their environment.  

This is a direct assault on nearly 200 communities across the country that have passed their own policies to restrict the use of toxic pesticides. Communities must maintain the right to restrict pesticides linked to cancer, water-contamination, and the decline of pollinators to protect their residents’ health and unique local ecosystems. 

The provision hinges on the concept of preemption: a legal theory that allows larger jurisdictions (federal and state) to limit the authority of a jurisdiction within it to regulate a specific issue. In 1991, the Supreme Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier. The Court ruled that federal pesticide law does not prohibit or preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government throughout their jurisdiction. According to Mortier, however, states may retain authority to take away local control.  

Part 1: Tell your local officials to sign onto a letter opposing the preemption language. Part 2: Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill.    

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking, and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording. Since the passage of those state laws, there have been numerous efforts to prohibit localities from developing policies reflecting the unique needs and values of the people living there.  

If the pesticide industry is successful, the impacts for public health and ecological stability would be devastating. Only states and the federal government would be able to regulate pesticide use. With most state agencies allowing all uses on labels approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local jurisdictions would be forced to follow the rulemaking of an agency that has been documented to be captured by industry interests.

Preemption would quash a growing national grassroots movement encouraging alternatives to toxic pesticides where people live, work, and play. Federal preemption would prevent local governments from instituting pesticide regulations that are stricter than federal regulations, taking away communities’ basic right to secure their own safety and interrupting a burgeoning movement of local pesticide restrictions. Such preemption provisions will likely prevent states from giving localities the right to regulate pesticides.  

Many pesticides targeted by local city residents, including neonicotinoids, glyphosate, and atrazine, have been banned or restricted in other countries due to health or environmental concerns. However, in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency has not taken similar action on these pesticides. Given federal inaction and the previous administration’s failure to follow sound science, it is imperative that local governments retain the ability to tailor laws so localities can respond to federal actions that permit the use of toxic chemicals that residents do not want in their community.  

Having failed to curtail prohibitions against local restrictions into the 2018 Farm Bill after massive pushback from health advocates, local officials, and Congressional allies, the chemical industry is renewing its attack. The industry continues to flex its muscle in Congress through attempts to add preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill as a growing number of communities are deciding to act.  

Part 1: Tell your local officials to sign onto a letter opposing the preemption language. Part 2: Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill.   

The targets for this Action are the U.S. Congress and local elected officials across the United States.

Part I: Ask your local officials to sign on this letter opposing the preemption language.

Mayors, city council members, and county commissioners should make their voices heard in opposition to preemption, which prohibits local governments from adopting pesticide laws that are more protective than federal and state rules and overturns decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings. It could prevent local governments from tailoring laws to the specific needs of their communities.

Please send your mayor and other local officials a short note (see below) asking them to sign this letter! [Note: Only sign-ons of local officials can be accepted]

To find contact information for local elected officials, check out this tool from usa.gov: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials 

Sample email to local elected officials (please cut-and-paste, as needed):

As a local elected official, please make your voice heard in opposition to federal preemption of local authority, which prohibits local governments from adopting pesticide laws that are more protective than federal and state rules and overturns decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings. It could prevent local governments from tailoring laws to the specific needs of our community. Please see the letter and a link to sign onto the letter below:

Letter: bp-dc.org/official-local-letter-pesticide-preemption
Link to sign on to the  letter: https://secure.everyaction.com/aMcVHaaV7ES6Qw6RhBOCbw2

While having differing views on pesticides, local leaders take very seriously a duty to protect constituents. Federal pesticide preemption is a direct attack on this authority. This provision prohibits local governments from adopting pesticide laws that are more protective than federal rules. It overturns decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings and could prevent local governments from tailoring laws to the specific needs of their communities. 

As of 2023, nearly 200 communities across the country have passed policies to restrict the use of pesticides in response to emerging evidence about potential human and environmental impacts. The exact concerns differ by pesticide, but include links to cancer, developmental challenges, lower IQ, and delayed motor development. Many of these laws work to protect the most vulnerable among us, such as children, who take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems. Others focus on safeguarding precious water resources, or the protection of wildlife like declining pollinator species critical to our environment and food supply.   

While not every city has taken these actions, it is important to support the right to do so and you should oppose forfeiting this right for the indefinite future. In fact, federal pesticide preemption undermines the key role that local governments play across the country. 

Please sign this letter in opposition to including preemption in the Farm Bill. 

Thank you. 

Part II: Tell Congress to support communities by opposing anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill

Letter to Congress
I am writing to urge you to oppose adding language in the 2023 Farm Bill that seeks to deny local communities the power to protect themselves from chemical exposure when state and federal regulation is inadequate. If incorporated into the upcoming 2023 Farm bill, it would amend federal pesticide law to prohibit local governments from restricting pesticide use within their jurisdictions. However, the rights of local governmental jurisdictions under existing pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), have been left to the states since the law’s adoption. In fact, local laws protecting the environment and public health have historically emerged out of local governments, with laws related to recycling, smoking, pet waste, building codes, and zoning.

This is a direct assault on nearly 200 communities across the country that have passed their own policies to restrict the use of toxic pesticides. Communities must maintain the right to restrict pesticides linked to cancer, water contamination, and the decline of pollinators to protect their resident’s health and unique local ecosystems.

The rights of local governments to protect people and the environment were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. The Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law. In Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, the Court ruled that FIFRA does not prohibit, or preempt, local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. According to Mortier, however, states may retain authority to take away local control.

This legislation would quash a growing national grassroots movement encouraging alternatives to toxic pesticides where people live, work, and play. It would prevent local governments from instituting pesticide regulations that are stricter than federal regulations, confiscating communities’ basic right to secure their own safety and interrupting a burgeoning movement of local pesticide restrictions. Many pesticides targeted by local city residents, including neonicotinoids, glyphosate, and atrazine, have been banned or restricted in other countries due to health or environmental concerns. However, in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency has not taken similar action on these pesticides. Given federal inaction and the previous administration’s failure to follow sound science, it is imperative that local governments retain the ability to tailor laws so localities can respond to federal actions that permit the use of toxic chemicals that residents do not want in their community.   

Please let me know your position on these preemption provisions.

Thank you.

Share

6 Responses to “Take Action: Local Authority to Restrict Pesticides under Threat of Federal Preemption in Farm Bill”

  1. 1
    priscilla martinez Says:

    We need to take better care of what is left of our environment, for people, wildlife, marine life, and plant life.

  2. 2
    Yvonne Fisher Says:

    Please allow local authorities their own sovereignty in local agriculture. They need to be allowed to restrict pesticide use if that is the local need. It is undemocratic not to allow this as it is what the local community needs.
    Please sign the letter preventing preemption language.

    Also, please support the Farm Bill and prevent preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill.

  3. 3
    Tracy S. Feldman Says:

    Pesticides are destroying our biodiversity, and degrading our world. Please allow for alternatives to spraying pesticides.

  4. 4
    Pam Wilbourn Says:

    PESTICIDES THST ARE NOT FROM NATURAL RESOURCES ARE POISON!

  5. 5
    Sarah Gallagher Says:

    How many more times do we need to inform the powers-that-be that we’ve had enough of these deadly substances?!

  6. 6
    Marcelo Vazquez Says:

    Pesticides is poison for us and all the world. STOP THEM NOW¡¡¡¡¡

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