State Senate committee moves pesticide measures

Garden Island News - January 31, 2017
By: 
Jessica Else

The Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment voted Monday to adopt three measures dealing with pesticide exposure and safety.

Several Kauai residents testified on the matter.

Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawaii SEED and GMO Free Kauai, said it’s imperative to see the recommendations implemented.

“Citizens on our island have done everything we can think of as far as following the steps of law,” Di Pietro said. “We think these recommendations should be (implemented) on Kauai, but also across the island chain.”

The first measure, SB 778, seeks to implement the recommendations of the Kauai Joint-Fact Finding report.

SB 779 expands the membership of the state Pesticide Advisory Committee, and SB 804 increases the amount of money the state Department of Agriculture may retain from the pesticide use revolving fund.

“Concerns about pesticide use continues in communities across our state,” said committee chairman, Sen. Mike Gabbard at the Monday hearing. “Federal courts have determined it’s not the counties, but the state’s kuleana to deal with this issue.”

Kauai residents Clayton Kubo, Carol Hart, Margaret Maupin, Felicia Cowden, Gary Hooser and JFF Group member Dr. Lee Evslin all testified in support of passing the three bills.

SB 778 provides $3 million a year for two years for implementing the recommendations of the DOA mandated JFF report.

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association’s executive director, Bennette Misalucha in a written statement, supported the Legislature fully funding HDOA.

Maupin, a primary care provider and nurse practitioner on Kauai, urged the committee to set up an enforceable timeline and standards for implementation.

Kauai residents also expressed a desire to expand the membership of the Pesticide Advisory Committee to include labor workers and more seats for physicians.

Misalucha said HCIA agrees with the intent to allow greater diversity of participation in the Pesticide Advisory Committee, but the organization has reservations.

“We feel the suggested additional responsibilities should remain with HDOA, whose duty is to enforce the safe use of pesticides based on scientific assessments and established rules,” she said in a submitted statement.

The passage of the three measures is necessary to determine if residents living near agricultural operations are at risk from exposure to pesticides and to provide adequate buffer zones for pesticide applications, according to Milton Clark, who was a pro bono adviser to the JFF group.

“As recommended in the JFF report, we need to know if there are unsafe levels of pesticides in soils, dusts, air, and in people,” Clark said. “Passage of SB 778 will fund those studies that will resolve lingering questions, protect pubic health and fulfill important recommendations of the JFF report. “