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New York farmers mobilize against banning crop protectants

Leonid Eremeychuk/Getty Images A tractor with high wheels fertilizes young wheat
PROTECTANT FIGHT: Several bills in the New York State Legislature are aimed at reducing or outright banning crop protectants used by farmers, including chlorpyrifos and glyphosate. The New York State Agribusiness Association is organizing petitions to try and prevent these bills from being passed.
Several proposed bills would restrict chemical treatments such as glyphosate.

Several bills are floating in the New York State Legislature that would not only ban a popular pesticide, but also the use of glyphosate.

Now, the New York State Agribusiness Association wants to get farmers mobilized. In late March the association began circulating a petition to show the ag community’s opposition to the bills. Jeanette Marvin, administrator, says petitions will be delivered to legislators with farmers signatures throughout the spring and early summer.

One bill could potentially be costly to farmers. S2002, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-New York City, calls for expanding the definition of “pesticide” to include seeds that have been coated or treated with an insecticide. Marvin says this could restrict access to treated seed to only farmers who have an applicator’s license and it would require more recordkeeping.

Marvin says fewer farmers in the state have a pesticide applicator’s license because of the cost and time to get a license in the state and often opt to get a custom sprayer to do the job.

Two other bills, A02477A and S2156A, call for banning chlorpyrifos in the state.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, says in a memo that the bill is meant to protect human health. Indoor use of the pesticide was banned by the EPA in 2001 and in 2003 Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of the pesticide, paid a $3 million fine to the New York Attorney General’s office for “false advertising.”

Chlorpyrifos is used to control foliage and soilborne pests on many crops, but it has come under scrutiny from environmentalists and public health advocates who claim the pesticide is harmful to human health.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered EPA to ban the pesticide within 60 days. The agency has resisted the court’s decision and a rehearing was held in front of the full 9th Circuit in late March.

Chlorpyrifos is mainly used as a pre-bloom application in apples, according to Arthur M. Agnello, Extension tree fruit entomologist. It’s also registered in other tree fruit crops such as cherries and peaches. 

“In almost all cases there are alternative products available, but growers generally opt not to use them for a number of reasons,” Agnello wrote in an email.

The pesticide is most effective against dogwood borer, rosy apple aphid, San Jose scale, black stem borer and American plum borer.

In New York it’s sold under the names Lorsban, Cobalt, Yuma and Warhawk.

Holyman is also sponsoring S01074A, a bill that would prohibit atrazine, metalaxyl and neonicotonoid class of chemicals. He’s also sponsoring a bill that would enact a moratorium on the use of glyphosate until 2024 to allow for a study to be done on its effects.

Marvin says the chlorpyrifos bill and expanding the use of pesticide to seeds are test cases for the Legislature. Bills have been introduced in the past to ban glyphosate but couldn’t get approval in both houses of the legislature. Now, both Houses are under control of one party.

If the chlorpyrifos bill passes, she says, the likelihood of getting glyphosate banned also increases.

“What we’ve been seeing is a picking away at the protectants a piece at a time,” she says.

Restrictions on the use of glyphosate, or Roundup, have largely been local ordinances on lawn applications or use in public parks.

The law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei, Goldman has an extensive list of local ordinances by state available online.

Getting signatures

Marvin, who helped draft the petition, says the association has distributed the petition to its members and certified crop advisers in the state.

“We believe that the Legislature’s actions interfere with this process and will unjustifiably harm crop yields and the economic viability of New York farms and farmers. Therefore, we the undersigned stand opposed to legislative actions to ban protectants and instead call on you to allow NYSDEC to continue to do its job as the regulator of these products,” the petition states.

The petition is available in hard copy or digitally at local input dealers or by visiting Completed original petitions should be sent to NYSABA, P.O. Box 268, Macedon, NY 14502.

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