Tell Democratic Leadership that They Must Stop Congress from Trampling the Right of Communities to Restrict Pesticides

The negotiations on the Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate begin on September 5. It is critical that we stop a Republican provision that prohibits local governments from restricting pesticides. Ask your elected officials to speak out against this assault on the democratic process.

We must stop the adoption of a law that will prevent local communities from restricting pesticides. Request that Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi on the House side and Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, lead the effort to protect a basic principle of local democratic decision making, especially in light of inadequate federal environmental and health protections. 

As Democratic leadership, Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Stabenow can stop this provision, which was unanimously rejected by Democrats in the House and is not in the Senate Farm Bill. 

>> Tell your Democratic representatives in Congress that Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Debbie Stabenow must stand up for democracy, public health, and environmental protection in the Farm Bill!

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed –with no support from Democrats— H.R.2  (the Farm Bill), including a provision that prohibits local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions. Existing local laws in two states, Maine and Maryland, will be overturned with final passage of this law. In those 43 states that forbid local pesticide laws by state law, future reconsideration of such state prohibitions would be foreclosed —a squelching of local authority pushed by the chemical and pest management industries. 

The fight to defend the authority of local governments to protect people and the environment has been ongoing for decades, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. In response to the Supreme Court decision in Wisconsin Pub. Intervenor v. Mortier, which found in favor of localities’ authority, the pesticide lobby immediately formed the “Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy,” and developed boilerplate legislative language to restrict 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 in most cases obtaining, pre-emption legislation whose text was often identical to the coalition’s. Since the passage of those state laws, there have been numerous efforts to pre-empt local authority in states that do not prohibit local action on pesticides. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-backed group, appeared to be behind a failed effort during the last two years to pre-empt local authority in the Maine state legislature.

In addition to the pre-emption language, the House Farm Bill contains other provisions that weaken protections against pesticides. The bill would:
  • Exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction, and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time;
  • Eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species;
  • Eliminate all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams;
  • Enact the “Pesticide Registration Improvement Act,” providing long-term funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for expedited processing of pesticide approvals, without accompanying measures to ensure that farmworkers and other pesticide applicators are safe;
  • Weaken restrictions on the use of the highly toxic ozone deplete, methyl bromide; and
  • Provide state pesticide regulatory agencies a secret chance to slow or effectively veto EPA pesticide protections before they are proposed.

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