ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, and other members of the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee held a hearing Tuesday to clear up confusion created by Gov. Mark Dayton’s recent executive order suggesting that immediate restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides were forthcoming.
“Unfortunately the content and manner in which this order was announced created unnecessary confusion and uncertainty within the agriculture community that rely on neonicotinoids as an approved means of controlling insect damage to crops,” said Lueck, who serves on both the House agriculture committees – finance and policy. “Whether intended or not, the governor’s order left the perception with the media and farmers that neonicotinoids and their use by farmers are single handedly responsible for the decline in pollinators.”
Neonicotinoids, aka neonics, are a relatively new class of insecticides that are approved for use on 140 crops. Lueck said they can be used in place of organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids, which tend to be more toxic to bees, mammals, birds, aquatic life and can present a risk to those humans handling the chemicals.
Neonics are used to treat seeds before planting to control insect pests while the plants are small and most vulnerable to insect damage. In Minnesota, Lueck said about 90 percent of seed corn and about 40 percent of soybean seed are currently pretreated in this manner before planting.
The governor’s recently issued Executive 16-07 implied that neonics are the primary cause for the loss of pollinators including honey bees and calling for immediate action to reduce or eliminate the their use.
Lueck said the order was issued without consulting farmers and was a surprise to key legislative chairs and agriculture committee members responsible to make adjustments to existing state statutes governing the regulation of pesticides and herbicides.
“We were able to clear up some of the confusion during the three and a half hours of testimony by state Ag. Commissioner David Frederickson and ag. department personnel,” Lueck said, “While pesticides present an obvious risk to pollinators, pollinator decline is linked to a variety of issues including, loss of habitat, bee specific diseases including viruses and bacteria, parasites, predators, pets, bee keeper practices, local weather events and general climatic changes.
“I was pleased that, when queried, Commissioner Frederickson clarified that farmers ordering seed for next year’s planting should follow current practices and label instructions. They should not anticipate any immediate changes in the use of neonicotinoids. The commissioner acknowledged the department currently does not have statutory authority to create or impose new regulations in this area and that next year the administration would be coming to the legislature next year to work on the issue.
At the close of the hearing, the committee heard testimony on changes to planting equipment and practices that may significantly reduce the primary means of exposure to pollinators, which occurs from the dust created during planting that can result in small amounts of neonics becoming air borne and then coming in contact with pollinators.
“The decline of pollinators is of concern to all farmers, not just bee keepers. Pollinators play a key part in plant reproduction,” Lueck said. “Their absence can mean severely reduced yields for crops that require their activity for pollination
“Ensuring we maintain a healthy pollinator population is a shared goal. Now that Commissioner Frederickson has clarified what the governor’s executive order means to farmers already planning for next year’s crops, I am confident that the Legislature and the ag. department can develop solutions to this issue in a fact-based, common-sense manner.”
- 30 -