By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- A bill requiring commercial pesticide applicators to report their applications to the state Department of Environmental Quality is unnecessary and burdensome to applicators, according to testimony before a Senate committee.
Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, said applicators already are required to keep pesticide application records and make the records available to the Oregon Department of Agriculture upon request.
"We have those records on hand at all times," said Thomsen, who is a pear grower. "If ODA shows up on my particular farm, my records have to be readily available for them to look at. I don't think we need another agency to look at these records."
Sponsored by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, Senate Bill 800 would require commercial and governmental pesticide applicators to report their use to DEQ within 60 days of the application.
The bill also allows the DEQ to share the pesticide application records with other state agencies.
Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, who is sponsoring a similar bill in the House, House Bill 3170, said the bill is necessary to ensure the state has timely access to data when investigating complaints of pesticide exposure.
Holvey said he has received "a lot of complaints from constituents about exposure to pesticides" in recent years.
"It has been going on for several years now, and ... whether or not there was dangerous pesticide exposures from operations is an issue that hasn't been figured out yet," Holvey said.
"We're still waiting for results of the PARC (Pesticide Analytical Response Center) investigation," he said to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee earlier this month.
"What became apparent to me was that in order for the state to actually figure out whether there's been harm done or pesticide exposure, we have to be able to get the data," he said. "And right now our system of collecting the spray application records and collecting that data is very disjointed and ineffective."
SB800 was roundly opposed by agricultural groups.
Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, characterized the bill as "a solution in search of a problem."
"Under current law, pesticide applicators must keep records and hold onto those for three years, and if ODA needs to do an investigation ... they have the authority under current law to request the (application) records.
"ODA is the regulatory authority," Dahlman said. "They have the experts. They are best equipped to do this."
The Oregon Farm Bureau, seed growers, small woodland operators, the Oregon Forest Industries Council, as well as representatives of government road departments testified against the bill.
HB3170 is in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee took no action on SB800.