Washington Debates Pesticide Restrictions

A bill being debated in the Washington State assembly that would restrict the usage of pesticides near residential areas is picking up steam, according to sources in the Washington Statehouse.

Sponsors of the bill say that it is necessary to protect farm workers and local residents from the negative health effects of pesticide use. Farmers, on the other hand, argue that the bill would hamper agricultural production and is unnecessary given current federal pesticide regulations.

The bill in question would create buffer zones preventing farms from spraying pesticides within a half-mile of schools, day cares, and residential homes. The bill is based on current regulations that prevent pesticide spraying within a half mile of commercial greenhouses.

Current federal regulations impose no distance requirements, choosing instead to require farmers to read and obey warning labels on pesticide containers.

Representatives of the Columbia Legal Service, a non-profit organization that supports the proposed bill, argue that humans deserve the same protection as grapes (which are currently protected with pesticide buffer zones).

Farmers, on the other hand, argue that the bill is not necessary. According to the head of the Yakima Valley Growers and Shippers Association, “Humans are protected more than a grape. It’s just done in federal regulation rather than in state law.”

In addition, state agencies are unsure about the efficacy of the bill. According to the departments of Health, Agriculture, and Labor, the state government does not have the manpower or the resource to efficiently enforce the new legislation.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer