Lawmakers are adding a no-spray buffer requirement to Oregon pesticide legislation that also increases enforcement funding, doubles fines for violations and creates new requirements for applicators.

Controversy over Oregon’s pesticide laws was ignited by an off-target application of herbicides that affected residents in Curry County in 2013, prompting a multitude of proposals during this year’s legislative session.

Those concepts were distilled into a single piece of legislation — House Bill 3549 — that initially focused on better training for applicators and a greater capacity for state regulators to investigate complaints and enforce existing laws.

During a May 21 work session on the bill, the House Rules Committee adopted an amendment that will require 60-foot no-spray buffers around homes and schools for aerial pesticide applications in forestry.

Farm and forestry groups will continue to support the legislation despite the buffer amendment, said Scott Dahlman, policy director of the Oregonians for Food and Shelter agribusiness group.

“In the legislative process, there is compromise along the way,” he said.

Eric Geyer, manager of business development for Roseburg Forest Products, said the industry isn’t thrilled with the no-spray buffer amendment but the change isn’t enough to sink its support of the overall package.

Earlier bill proposals that died in committee would have imposed greater restrictions on pesticides, including an outright ban on aerial spraying and certain classes of chemicals.

The amendment adopted by the committee does not include stricter notification and reporting requirements for pesticide applications, which the timber industry has opposed as impractical.

“Real time” notification of sprays is challenging time-wise due to changes in the weather, particularly if a company must alert numerous people, said Jake Gibbs, director of external affairs at Lone Rock Timber.

The timber industry is also concerned about the potential for sabotage by eco-terrorists if specific sites and dates are announced for spray applications, said Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie.

Proponents of more stringent notification requirements claim it’s necessary in case aerial applicators violate rules against off-target spraying.

Advance notification would allow neighbors to prepare for pesticide sprays by staying indoors or leaving the area, said Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego.

“There are real people getting hurt and they need our help,” she said.

Kathryn Rickard, a Curry County resident affected by the 2013 incident, said it took state regulators six months to notify her which chemicals were found on her property, which hindered adequate medical treatment.

The situation would be different with advance notice and better reporting, she said. “Our physicians would have known how to treat us in a timely manner.”

While the no-spray buffer amendment to HB 3549 was adopted, the overall bill has not moved out of committee for a vote on the House floor, which means it’s still subject to further hearings.

Apart from the no-spray buffers, the bill would increase registration fees on pesticide distributors to raise up to $2.4 million for enhanced pesticide enforcement, complaint response and investigation.

Aerial applicators would be required to undergo 50 hours of special training a year and obtain a specific license, pesticide fines would increase twofold and the Oregon Department of Agriculture would create a pesticide hotline and hire additional staff, among other provisions.

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