Bill to strengthen pesticide protections offers farm bill “wish list”

By Shannon Kelleher

Advocates are cheering US Senator Cory Booker’s recent move to reintroduce a bill that would strengthen legal protections against dangerous pesticides used in agriculture. However, the bill may face a steep uphill journey towards being signed into law.

The measure, titled “Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023” (PACTPA) would ban several widely used pesticides that have been linked through scientific research to a number of human and environmental health problems.

“We’d like to see the Senate and House agriculture committees look at this as a wish list,” said Christina Stucker-Gassi, a program manager at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. “They have the budget, they have the authority to look at that wish list and advance on some of [these issues] within the [2023] Farm Bill process,” she said, referring to a package of legislation passed every five years that could be one channel for moving PACPTA priorities forward.

PACPTA would especially benefit children, farmworkers, and rural communities, who suffer disproportionately from exposure to these toxic chemicals, according to Stucker-Gassi. The bill would help enable local communities to enact their own protective legislation against harmful pesticides and would put in place strict rules requiring employers of farmworkers to report pesticide-related injuries.

“It’s high time that farmworkers are included within the farm bill in substantial ways,” said Stucker-Gassi.

Booker initially introduced the bill in 2021 but it failed to gain traction amid strong resistance from powerful farm lobbying groups and the agrochemical industry, which reaps billions of dollars in revenues from pesticide sales.