Wheat growers oppose senate reporting bill

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OLYMPIA — Wheat growers are concerned that proposed legislation will make it even tougher for farmers in Washington to use pesticides.

The proposed measure, Senate Bill 6529, would require farmers to notify the state Department of Health four days to any prior pesticide spraying.

That would deprive farmers of the flexibility needed to protect their crops and their livelihoods, according to the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG).

“They are asking farmers to give four days notice before spraying when you don’t know what the weather will be, if there’s rain or winds,” said WAWG Executive Director Michelle Hennings.

Hennings said it would make farming specialty crops, like cherries and hops, a great deal more difficult, and make farmers significantly more susceptible to wheat rust, which can devastate a crop in a matter of hours.

The measure also requires farmers to file pesticide use information every month or face a $7,500 fine.

“Farmers are mindful stewards of the land, air, and water, and we take careful precautions in how and when we spray any pesticides on our fields,” said Marci Green, WAWG president and a Fairfield-area farmer.

“Farmers must be licensed and must participate in regular training in order to handle and apply chemicals,” Green added. “We already observe strict notification and reporting rules, and we adhere to application standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Hennings said WAWG is concerned that in the new, Democrat dominated state legislature, the bill has a chance of passing. She is also concerned that the legislative group working on the measure is too one-sided, and is not taking into consideration the needs of the state’s farmers.

“We need to educate the committee,” Henning said. “There’s definitely a need for education.”

The measure, sponsored by a group of Senate Democrats and supporters by groups representing farm workers and educators, seeks to “establish stronger environmental standards around schools and daycares and protections for farmworkers and their families” following concerns that drift from spraying is affecting the health of students in rural schools, according to a webpage hosted by the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.

The measure is currently still being considered by the Senate’s Labor and Commerce Committee.

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