Senate Bill 6529 would have destroyed Washington farms but now promotes collaboration
1. On January 25, 2018 the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 6529 - “an act relating to protecting agricultural workers and community members from pesticides.”
2. Despite being touted as a worker protection bill, the original bill would have done nothing to protect farm workers. Instead it sought to capitalize on misunderstandings about agriculture to push a fear-based proposal.
3. Pesticide drift rarely occurs, affecting less than 0.0006 percent of Washington’s population and all misapplications are punishable by three regulatory agencies.
4. SB 6529 was originally excessive, requiring a four-day notification of pesticide applications and to create a database of pesticide records. Other requirements were duplicative of existing processes.
5. SB 6529 changed to a collaborative approach to improve pesticide applications, through a work group that would provide recommendations to the 2019 legislature by November 2018. This version passed both chambers.
6. As the work group moves forward, it would do well to remember that proposing legislation that makes it too costly to farm or which does not adequately protect workers or help the environment is bad for all of Washington.
Should farmers spend days watching insects and disease destroy crops before acting? New legislation would have created that effect with Senate Bill 6529. However, various interests worked to educate bill sponsors about current agricultural practices. The bill changed to a collaborative approach to improve pesticide applications, through a work group under Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 6529.
However, this leads to an interesting conundrum – with the growing agricultural education effort nationally and statewide, why is agriculture still being targeted with duplicative and industry destroying regulations? Whatever the reason, the concerning aspect of the original Senate Bill 6529 was its lack of common sense. Hopefully, the work group will actually promote collaboration to assure all parties are protected and not just resurrect damaging ideas from the original bill.