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Ag panel approves bill that would let cities exterminate use of some pesticides

The sinking of bee populations is an all-hands-on-deck situation, and local communities should have their hands untied, say supporters of a bill that would allow cities to ban the use of certain pesticides harmful to pollinators.

“I feel local communities should have as many options as possible,” said Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee).

He sponsors HF1130, which the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee approved Thursday on a split-voice vote after adopting two amendments. Its next stop is the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee.

Cities would have authority to prohibit the use of pollinator-lethal pesticides, meaning those that
have a pollinator protection box on the label or a pollinator, bee or honeybee precautionary statement in the environmental hazards section. The Department of Agriculture would be required to post a list of those pesticides on its website.  

Cities would not be able to ban pesticides used:

  • by farmers in areas zoned as agricultural;
  • to eradicate noxious weeds such as Palmer amaranth;
  • in personal care products designed to fight lice or bed bugs;
  • in pet care products addressing ticks, fleas or heartworm;
  • in indoor pest control products, including ant bait;
  • by the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District; or
  • in treated wood products.

Supporters say the bill would help protect pollinators and people from toxic pesticides.  

“This bill is extraordinarily important,” said Russ Henry, a landscaper and founder of Bee Safe Minneapolis. He sees a staggering amount of irresponsible pesticide use, such as injecting insecticides into native, wind-pollinated trees.

Tabke doesn’t anticipate many cities would choose to tackle pesticide regulations, but many communities banning certain pesticides could be a signal that more state action is needed.

Opponents say the bill would replace informed regulations from the Department of Agriculture with an unpredictable patchwork of local rules.

It would leave the regulation of pesticides up to sentiment, not science, said Rob Greer, a director with the Minnesota Pest Management Association, and would do nothing to prevent people from using internet-purchased products to tackle jobs better done by licensed company who know when and how to apply pesticides.

Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) considers it ironic that one of the bigger pesticide users, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, is exempted from a potential ban.

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