House Farm Bill Leaves People, Environment Vulnerable to Pesticide Poisoning

Last-minute amendment would bar USDA from encouraging safer alternatives
WASHINGTON, DC (July 25, 2007) -- The Farm Bill heading for a House floor vote tomorrow contains a provision that would hamstring efforts to promote the use of safe pest-control methods to replace dangerous pesticides, according to agriculture and public health experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“This is a Farm Bill pesticide manufacturers will love,” Jonathan Kaplan, Agriculture Project director at NRDC said. “It prevents the USDA from promoting environmentally friendly alternatives to specific dangerous pesticides, even if they are poisoning our water, air and communities.”

As it stands now, the House version of the Farm Bill contains billions of dollars in subsidies to help farmers adopt environmentally friendly practices to protect clean air, water and other natural resources. But this pesticide industry amendment will make those funds off-limits for reducing the use of specific dangerous pesticides, according to NRDC experts.

The amendment was added in the final hours of the House Agriculture Committee’s mark-up of the Farm Bill last week. Introduced by Minority Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and adopted by the Committee with no debate, this amendment could keep conservation program managers from avoiding the use of specific pesticide products they may deem dangerous when developing and implementing conservation programs.

“It doesn’t make sense to tie USDA’s hands when trying to address particular pesticide impacts, like the widespread Atrazine contamination throughout the Midwest,” Kaplan added.

NRDC and 30 other groups opposed to the amendment have written to Congress expressing their concerns.

An amendment to the Farm Bill that would strike the pesticide provision and instead favor safety protections for people and the environment is being offered by Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) on Thursday.

U.S. streams and rivers by the U.S. Geological Survey found that pesticides are nearly always detected in agricultural regions and are present at levels that endanger public health and ecosystems nearly two-thirds of the time. Yet USDA’s capacity to promote environmentally friendly pest control under existing farm bill programs is already woefully inadequate. Only 2.4 percent of the funds available through the largest Farm Bill conservation program for working farmlands were allocated to pest management between 2003 and 2005, with many state programs offering little or no pest management assistance to farmers. NRDC’s analysis of this issue is available at