Talking organic farming, golf course pesticides: Ag policy omnibus bill heads to MN House floor
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House soon will decide whether certain pesticides should be prohibited from being used on golf courses and the best methods for encouraging organic farming.
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota House soon will decide whether certain pesticides should be prohibited from being used on golf courses and the best methods for encouraging organic farming.
Representatives also will discuss helping with foreclosure mediation for farmers.
Legislative tweaks without associated expenditures were compiled by the House Agriculture Policy Committee and pass them on to the full House. A similar will awaits a Senate debate.
The legislation by Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, looks at pesticide.
A federal risk assessment recently linked at least one common type of pesticide to negative impacts on honeybees, reigniting debate over whether other pesticides were linked to the rash of unexplained bee deaths across the country.
The bill would remove a requirement that licensed commercial or noncommercial applicators must have an appropriate use certification before they can apply pesticide to a golf course.
Whitney Place, director of legislative affairs for the Agriculture Department, said the certification is duplicative because applicators already have to demonstrate competent use of pesticides to receive a license. She said the change would simplify the process, saving time and money for applicators.
Rep. Jennifer Schultz. D-Duluth, unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would ban using organophosphates, neonicotinoids, carbamates and synthetic pyrethroids pesticides on golf courses.
She said the ban is prudent given the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding and honeybees’ frequent use of vegetation near golf courses. She said these pesticides also raise concerns about health risks for humans.
Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Matt Wohlman said the department opposes the amendment because it complicates regulation by basing it off of location instead of the type of pesticide.
Jack MacKenzie objected to the amendment. The executive director of the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents' Association said no studies directly link golf course pesticide use to impacting pollinators. He said certain bugs are a serious nuisance for golf courses, requiring effective pesticides.
Schultz argued applicators could find replacement pesticides.
Rep. Clark Johnson, D-North Mankato, questioned why original language that would have required applicators to post a notice and make paperwork available when working near an apartment building wasn’t in the bill.
Anderson said that language was stricken by a Senate committee, and he wants this bill to align with the Senate version.
“The increasing number of people in apartments deserve to know what pesticides are being used in these residences,” Johnson said.
Johnson successfully amended the bill to add a farm safety Initiative provision.
It calls for the Department of Agriculture to analyze farm safety issues, including common causes of farm accidents, and compile a list of farm safety programs in Minnesota by Oct. 1, 2016. The department would make the information publicly available and work to promote it to farmers.
The provision is a modified version of farm safety legislation the committee approved earlier this year.
The legislation also would:
- Extend the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act by two years through June 30, 2018. The act requires lenders to offer mediation before foreclosing on agricultural property with the intent of using an impartial mediator to find a better solution for both the lender and the farmer.
- Extend the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force, which has been around for over 25 years, by three years through June 30, 2019.
- Allow the Department of Agriculture to assess a re-inspection fee to a licensed food handler who violated certain food laws, even if an administrative meeting hasn’t been held. The provision focuses on small violations, such as a lack of soap in a soap dispenser, that wouldn’t be worth the cost of a meeting.
- Correct minor references to food laws in sections that have been consolidated and modified by prior legislation.
The nonpartisan Minnesota House Public Information Office online publication Session Daily is available at www.house.leg.state.mn.us/SessionDaily .