Washington Association of Wheat Growers opposes pesticide bills

Washington Association of Wheat Growers opposes pesticide bills

While Washington state lawmakers debate everything from designating Sasquatch as the official cryptid or crypto-animal of the evergreen state to anointing the pine mushroom as the state’s official fungi, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers is taking a stand against bills it says would restrict pesticide use.

Senate Bill 6529 would require farmers to notify the state four days prior to spraying pesticides. The application of pesticides can only be accomplished under certain weather conditions including temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.

The Washington Association of Wheat Growers says regulations that require advance notification periods before a spray application would be extremely burdensome and could result in crop devastation due to a grower’s inability to address a pest or weed problem in a timely manner.

“When we discover a problem in one of our fields, time is of the essence in applying crop protection products. I would hate to be required to let one or two ‘good spray days’ pass us by and then have wind and rain on the day I’m scheduled to spray,” Marci Green, president of WAWG and a farmer from Fairfield, Wash.

Right now green spears of winter wheat are breaking through the brown soil across eastern Washington. It’s a delicate dance this time of year. There needs to be enough moisture to help the plant grow but too much moisture and an outbreak of wheat rust can occur, threatening the entire crop.

“When we discover a problem in one of our fields, time is of the essence in applying crop protection products. I would hate to be required to let one or two ‘good spray days’ pass us by and then have wind and rain on the day I’m scheduled to spray,” Green said.

Wheat growers say pesticides are already regulated by the Department of Agriculture and they believe that thanks to advancements in nozzle spray technology and chemical formulations, the vast majority of pesticide applications are done safely, with no adverse effects to the public.

“Sometimes the public doesn’t understand the amounts we are dealing with. Last year, we applied four ounces of pesticide per 100 gallons of water to treat a problem called stripe rust, a disease that if not treated promptly can quickly devastate whole fields,” said Nicole Berg who farms in Paterson, Wash. “We aren’t dumping chemicals into the air or soaking our fields in pesticides. We use very small amounts and precisely apply them to keep ourselves, our families, our workers and the public safe.”

The bill is currently in a working group and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers is working to educate those who will make the decisions, about farming.