Minnesota Capitol

MSGA Bulletin: House Ag Committee Holds Hearing on Governor’s Executive Order

On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Policy Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), held a hearing to try to address much of the confusion surrounding Gov. Mark Dayton’s Executive Order that he released on Aug. 26 at the Minnesota State Fair. The announcement caught many in the agriculture industry by surprise.

The Executive Order requires the Department of Agriculture to immediately initiate action steps, which includes requiring verification that the application of neonicotinoid pesticides is made due to an imminent threat of significant crop loss, reviewing pesticide product labels and implementing appropriate Minnesota-specific restrictions on their use, increasing enforcement of label requirements for pesticides that are acutely toxic to pollinators, and to continue developing and promoting best management practices designed to protect and enhance pollinator health in Minnesota.

At the hearing, the Dayton Administration attempted to clarify several concerns by committee members. Session Daily reported – Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson tried to assure members the order was the governor’s way to “set the table,” and begin a serious discussion on the issue.

“Pollinators are indeed in trouble and let’s not forget that, and we need to take some proactive steps in the state,” Frederickson said.

Saying Dayton’s response to the issue should not be news, Frederickson cited a 2013 request from the Legislature asking for the report on neonicotinoid use and registration and the February pollinator summit. He has received over 400 public comments.

“The governor relied on the work we have been doing over the last 24 months. … What we want to do here is to start a dialogue,” Frederickson said.

Much of the discussion focused on two areas of the Executive Order. The first directs the MDA to develop a “verification of need” before growers can use neonicotinoid pesticide. In creating this new process, MDA will work to develop pest thresholds and acceptable IPM criteria and the department will ensure that pesticide applicators understand the verification process and requirements.

The second, directs MDA to pursue the creation of a new “Treated Seed Program” through legislation. This Seed Treated Program would provide the state the authority to regulate seeds treated with pesticides.

Although some questions were answered, many still remain. Limiting the use of this insecticide presents difficult challenges for Minnesota soybean farmers. Minnesota’s unique environment creates a greater need for pest management, which left unchecked could prove costly to Minnesota farmers. MSGA will continue to monitor this issue as it moves forward both in and outside the legislative arena and will be actively engaged in discussion as this issue continues to develop.