Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Maryland Reports Lower Pesticide Use

A new statewide report shows pesticide use among farmers, public agencies and commercially licensed businesses is down in Maryland, but some pesticide opponents are wary of the findings.

The voluntary survey completed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture released May 28, states the amount of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used in 2011 was about 4.7 million pounds, about 50 percent less than the 10.5 million pounds used in 2004. The survey focused on commercial pesticide use and did not include residential users.

The department received 3,434 responses to the survey. Certified public applicators accounted for 49.6 percent of responses, farm operators 24.9 percent, and licenses commercial applicators and public agencies accounted for 19.4 and 6.1 percent, respectively. According to the report however, just 856 farmer operators out of the 12,800 in the state replied to the survey, meaning the report showed results for 7 percent of all farms in the state.
Some were not impressed:
Ruth Berlin, director of the Maryland Pesticide Network questioned how many pounds of pesticides are being used by the farmers who didn’t respond.

In response to these concerns, Berlin said the Maryland Pesticide Network supported a bill that originally would have required all major pesticide applicators in the state to submit their annual use in a database. State licensed pesticide applicators are already required to keep records of pesticide use at their place of business, but the state doesn’t collect them. This database could then be used to help scientists find links between pesticide use and its effects on the Chesapeake Bay as well as cancer and autism clusters found in certain communities, Berlin said.

“This (current) voluntary, once-every-five-year survey only provides a small sampling of applicators - only about 20 percent of farmers - and does not provide needed information on what pesticides have been used, when and where needed to help public health experts and scientists looking at possible links between pesticides used to disease clusters or problems in the Bay,” Berlin said.
FWIW, I worked with the Maryland Pesticide Network for a few years. I agree that commercial pesticide use should be reported and data based, and that residential pesticide sales should be reported by area.  It looks like Ruth's effort to get such legislation passed has been at least partially successful:
The original bill was met with much opposition from the farm community, but an amended version, the Pesticide Reporting and Information Act SB 675 and HB 775, was passed in the 2013 state legislative session. The amended version requires a group of state lawmakers to meet after July 1 to decide on whether a statewide database will be implemented or not. A decision about the format in which data should be collected in, recommendation on how data should be collected and whether or not legislation will be needed to implement the data collection system must be reached by December 31, Berlin said.

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