Skip to main content
Commentary Energy & Environment

Opinion: Farm Industry Responds to Piece on Chlorpyrifos Ban Veto

Policy Over Politics
Dave Hoefler/Unsplash.com.

This was written in response to the commentary, “Protect Md.’s Children, Override the Governor’s Veto of Ban on Harmful Chlorpyrifos,” [Maryland Matters, Feb. 2].

COVID-19 and other important issues from the trying year that was 2020 have given the Maryland General Assembly plenty of priorities to focus on and overcome during the 2021 session.

Given the limited time for legislators on the floor and priority issues to advance during a global pandemic, one would assume the Senate would not spend precious legislative time overriding a gubernatorial veto on a bill for which the provisions have already been enacted through regulation.

Senate Bill 300 sought to set a precedent as the first legislative ban of an agricultural pesticide in Maryland history. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed SB300 and enacted regulations that were drafted and submitted during the 2020 legislative session to phase chlorpyrifos out of use in Maryland completely by Dec. 31, 2021.

There is nothing more to be achieved from a policy perspective by overriding the veto on SB300. Proponents of the bill sought to ban chlorpyrifos use in Maryland and that is exactly what has been done. They argue that the Maryland Department of Agriculture is not “equipped to enforce the regulations.” This is a moot point.

The fact of the matter is, enacting this legislation would still require the Department of Agriculture to promulgate and enforce regulations to ban chlorpyrifos, which they have already done. Legislation or regulation, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is the agency of jurisdiction with delegated authority for pesticide regulation in the state.

The agricultural community believes proponents of the bill seek to override the veto to set a precedent of legislatively banning pesticides in Maryland and circumventing the robust, regulatory, science-based process in place governing pesticides. Pesticides are reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency through an extensive, scientific process. This process often takes nearly a decade with re-review at least every 15 years.

Gov. Hogan was not alone in vetoing pesticide legislation in favor of regulation in 2020. Both Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) vetoed pesticide ban legislation in 2020 in favor of regulatory solutions.

When Gov. Cuomo vetoed chlorpyrifos ban legislation in New York, he summed up the reasoning in his veto letter stating, “legislatively banning pesticides substitutes the legislature’s judgment for the expertise of chemists, health experts, and other subject matter experts in this field.”

Any change to the regulations banning chlorpyrifos would be a public and open process requiring submission to the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee of the Maryland state legislature, publication in the Maryland Register and public comment to be considered before enactment.

The agricultural community has no intentions of going back on its word to support the regulatory phase out of chlorpyrifos in Maryland. Banning chlorpyrifos in Maryland is not without consequences. Many farmers are now faced with a daunting task of finding alternative products to protect their crops to continue growing safe, reliable and affordable food for Marylanders.

We hope the Maryland legislature will spend their time improving the lives of their constituents through meaningful policy rather than overriding a veto on a bill that will achieve nothing beyond what has already been done through regulation.

— MELVIN BAILE AND WAYNE STAFFORD

The writers are, respectively, president of the Maryland Grain Producers Association and president of the Maryland Farm Bureau. Both are farmers in Carroll County.