A week ago, two legislative committees approved a slew of bills aimed at banning certain pesticides, funding studies and requiring large agricultural companies to disclose when and where they apply the chemicals.
But activists pushing for more regulation of large farms aren’t celebrating yet. Some lawmakers on other committees aren’t planning to call hearings for the bills or say that they haven’t made up their minds. Others won’t answer questions about the measures.
It’s become an annual ritual for leaders of groups critical of large seed companies to crowd the halls of the Legislature and demand that the state address concerns about chemicals used by companies like Monsanto. The agricultural industry has so far successfully staved off additional regulation, contending that it’s not necessary and it unfairly targets farmers.
The stakes are particularly high this year because after activists spent years advocating at the county level for bills cracking down on the seed industry, laws approved on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island were voided by federal appeals court rulings that concluded counties don’t have the right to regulate agriculture in Hawaii.
House and Senate committees dealing with the environment and higher education have scheduled hearings on Wednesday and Thursday for proposals dealing with buffer zones and funding for pesticide studies.
“I do think we’ll see some things move further, at the very least, more than we’ve ever seen before,” said Rep. Chris Lee, who leads the House environmental committee and introduced several bills involving pesticide regulation and disclosure.