Over the past decade, Friends of Animals has advocated at both the local and state level for restrictions on the use of toxic pesticides, which have been proven harmful to all manner of wildlife as well as to families and their pets. 

 In 2013, alarmed by the proliferation of yellow pesticide application signs dotting a riverside park in her home community of Rowayton, CT, FoA President Priscilla Feral successfully campaigned to make that park an organic showpiece for the community and for other public land areas to become pesticide free.  

That grass-roots activism surely helped pave the way for passage last summer of a local ordinance to assure that pesticide-free management would be implemented on all public spaces throughout Norwalk, the town of 91,000 of which Rowayton is a small enclave.  

Norwalk’s land management plan embraces an organic-systems approach to land care, including preventive practices that eliminate pest-conducive conditions; environmental experts say it is one of the nation’s most comprehensive municipal pesticide bans. 

Today more than 150 communities throughout the U.S. have passed policies that restrict the use of toxic pesticides. In 2018, Portland, Maine’s largest city, banned the use of synthetic pesticides on city-owned land and private property. City workers now apply only organic pesticides when maintaining parks and recreational fields, with just a few exceptions, such as dealing with invasive insects or plants. And Portland residents can no longer use synthetic pesticides at home, although they can seek a waiver if they’ve shown that they’ve exhausted all alternative methods and choose to use “the minimum amount of the least toxic, most effective pesticide necessary,” the ordinance states. 

Other pesticide-free municipalities include South Miami, Stamford, CT, Ocean Township, NJ, and Maui, HI. Many cities have adopted partial restrictions. In 2021, for example, New York City became the nation’s largest metro area to ban synthetic pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, on all city property except golf courses and playing fields. 

Now, the chemical industry is working hard to prevent local citizens from protecting the health of their families and neighbors from deadly pesticides by pushing a revision in federal legislation that would prevent local and state authorities from the ability to restrict pesticide use. 

As our allies at Beyond Pesticides report, an obscure provision expected to be a part of the Farm Bill negotiations in the U.S. House of Representatives would effectively prohibit any locality or state from imposing restrictions that are more restrictive than the federal labeling on a pesticide product.  

Environmental groups and consumer protection advocates have long fought off provisions like those in the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act, which seeks to prohibit improved protections from inadequately regulated toxic pesticides. According to Beyond Pesticides, “if a community restricts pesticide use near sensitive areas, like waterways, or seeks to protect children, or those with preexisting health conditions, that action would constitute a restriction different, albeit more protective, from the label.” 

The introduction of state pesticide preemption laws has been a growing trend, largely influenced by the pesticide industry’s efforts to limit local and state control. The chemical lobby is more than happy to have the EPA’s lax, wholly inadequate approach to pesticide regulation be the only law of the land, regardless of how local communities feel. 

The fight to defend the authority of local governments to protect people and the environment has been ongoing for decades, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. “The Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law,” Beyond Pesticides adds. “In Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, the Court ruled that federal pesticide law does not prohibit, or preempt, local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government throughout their jurisdiction.” 

Friends of Animals urges its members and supporters to defend their right to keep their communities safe and to protect their children and families, local wildlife and the environment from toxic pesticides.  

Please click on this link, https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member, to find your U.S. Representatives and Senators  and tell them to oppose the anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill. 

The outcome of this proposed legislation will have significant implications for public health, environmental protection, and the authority of state governments across the United States.