As we prepare to turn the page on the 116th Congress and welcome in the 117th Congress in January, a shot across the bow of the green industry was made this summer. In August, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO) in the House introduced the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020 (H.R. 7940, S. 4406) which undermines 70 years of regulatory advancement based on best available science. H.R. 7940/ S. 4406 would drastically alter the way pesticides are regulated in the U.S. and would dismantle the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) as we know it today. Some of the most onerous provisions proposed in this legislation include:

 
  • Roll-back pesticide preemption and allow local communities to enact pesticide restrictions and bans even if the actions preempted by state law.
  • Immediately ban large categories of pesticides including:
  • Organophosphates;
  • Neonicotinoids;
  • Paraquat; and
  • Any product banned or otherwise prohibited by the European Union, 1 or more countries in the European Union, or Canada until EPA completes a thorough scientific review of the product.
  • Prohibit EPA from considering economic costs and product benefits in its registration decisions.
  • Define a dangerous pesticide as an active ingredient or pesticide product that may:
  • Be carcinogenic;
  • Be acutely toxic;
  • Be an endocrine disruptor;
  • Cause harm to a pregnant woman or a fetus; or
  • Cause neurological or developmental harm.
  • Blindly follow foreign regulatory process and require the suspension and review of pesticides deemed unsafe by Canada and the European Union which do not follow the FIFRA standards.
  • Create a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides. EPA must review citizen petitions and determine within 90 days if the pesticide meets the definition of a dangerous pesticide. If EPA fails to make a determination within 90 days, the pesticide will automatically be deemed a dangerous pesticide.

While it is unlikely this bill will move in this Congress, we must strongly oppose this bill now and use this time to educate lawmakers. Whether this bill comes back verbatim in the next Congress or several smaller bills are introduced representing certain aspects of this bill, or if we have a change in the Administration, will a Democratic controlled EPA set out to amend long standing FIFRA regulations? It is unclear how these attacks will come but it is certain that they will be coming. As an industry we need to be ready for an escalation of pesticide policy debates at the federal level in the next few years.

In September, NALP joined hundreds of national and state associations in supporting a letter that was sent to Congress in opposition of the anti-pesticide legislation. The green industry was very well represented on this letter with our partner groups representing the agriculture industry. Additionally, NALP began grassroots efforts to reinforce the message that this sort of drastic and misinformed anti-pesticide legislation is not acceptable.

The landscape industry, as part of the green industry, will need to work together in the coming months and years to educate new legislators and regulators at the federal level about what the landscape industry does to improve our environment and enrich the lives of our fellow citizens through healthy green spaces. We will also need to explain the professionalism of our industry and how we responsibly use EPA approved products while defending and preserving the FIFRA process.

Editor’s note: This article was written on Oct. 5, 2020. You can contact Bray at andrew@landscapeprofessionals.org for the most current information.