November 18, 2023
Congress is currently reviewing several bills that could potentially invalidate state and local legislation aimed at regulating pesticide use near schools. This move comes amidst a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) indicating that over 4,000 U.S. elementary schools are within 200 feet of farm fields where pesticides are frequently applied. The report, which includes a map of the affected schools, highlights the potential risks to children, as some pesticides can drift miles from their target and pose health hazards.
Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has voiced concerns about these legislative proposals. At a press conference announcing EWG’s report, he remarked, “States know that pesticide spraying is a risk to students … Despite all of that … some members of Congress are proposing to preempt all of these laws, stripping states and localities from being able to do what’s necessary to protect their children.”
One of the bills in question is the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act (EATS Act). Criticized by 30 law professors from leading law schools, this act could nullify or undermine countless laws across the country, including those regulating pesticides and fertilizers. Concerns are also mounting that the EATS Act could be incorporated into the pending Farm Bill, a crucial piece of legislation that Congress renews every five years.
Another bill, the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act, aims to centralize pesticide label control under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), effectively barring state and local authorities from issuing their own health and safety labels for pesticides.
Jaydee Hanson, the policy director for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), opposes the bill, stating that it would undermine state oversight of pesticide safety and prevent labels from informing consumers about potential cancer risks associated with certain pesticides.
The third bill, H.R.7266, introduced by former Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), proposes to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to prohibit state and local regulation of pesticides. This bill is expected to be reintroduced as part of the upcoming Farm Bill or a separate spending package.
EWG, along with over 100 other organizations, has written a letter opposing these bills, highlighting the potential implications for child health and state authority in managing toxic risks. As these legislative debates continue, the future of state and local pesticide regulations, particularly those aimed at protecting children in school environments, hangs in the balance.