Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck reports in Minnesota farm lobbyists flex new political muscle:
Months after rural voters helped Republicans reclaim the majority in the Minnesota House, lawmakers in both parties are looking to weaken environmental laws tied to agriculture.
One of the most bizarre illustrations of this trend is the move to strip consumer labeling language from Minnesota law. Scheck reports:
State Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, is pushing language that removes the definition of a "pollinator lethal insecticide" from state statute. Those include the neonicotinoid class of insecticides that some researchers have linked to the deaths of bees and other pollinators.
Dahms' move has the backing of the pesticide industry. The lawmaker said he worried the definition of the insecticide was loosely drawn.
"The terms and the facts just aren't there," Dahms said. "We don't have any limits. We don't describe what a lethal plant is. We don't have any targets and it's very vague. And that is why I'm asking for this to be repealed."
What's peculiar about this effort is that there's nothing in Minnesota statute about banning the use of these insecticides by farmers, nurseries or consumers. The definition was inserted in law as part of an effort to make sure that plants and seeds treated with neonicotinoids were not marketed to consumers as "pollinator friendly."
Alarmed by declines in the populations of bees and other pollinators, many Minnesotans want to create islands of pollinator-friendly habitat in their gardens and landscapes. As Solomon Gustavo reported last October in Representatives hold pollinator conservation forum in Montevideo:
Pollinators, like butterflies, moths and particularly honeybees, are integral members of the Minnesota River Basin, doing the part of fertilizing plants by transporting pollen. [Rep. Rick] Hansen spoke of four detriments to health of pollinators - poor habitat, poor nutrition, parasites and pesticides. Pesticides weaken pollinator food sources and habitat, which weakens pollinators that are finished off when fighting parasites below full strength.
Common sense would tell us that a consumer labeling law that helps ensure that gardeners who want to help bees are buying products that will in fact help bees is sound policy.
Unfortunately, as we reported in Pesticide industry lobbyist fears neonics ban on wildlife habitat acreage only first step to GMO-hating, organic-loving hippie takeover, any attempt to assist in the creation of pollinator-friendly habitat on non-agricultural land is seen as the Second Coming of Robert Rodale and the Final Judgement of Production Agriculture.
Representative Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), one of the architect of the threatened pollinator-friendly consumer labeling law, tells MPR:
But state Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, says the farm lobby push is all about politics. Groups representing agriculture and other rural interests are looking for a payback for showing up at the polls last November, he said.
Hansen worries the state's environmental laws will be weakened as lawmakers from both parties compete for the support of rural business interests.
"The money is the pollution in the system here in the Minnesota Legislature," Hansen added. "And it's getting worse."
The bees can't turn all that delicious honey into gold and hire lobbyists or start a SuperPAC to create independent expenditure ads and direct mail. Only Minnesotans contacting their legislators to demand that they leave this common sense measure in place can help protect pollinators from that "pollution in the system . . .in the Minnesota legislature."
Photo: Bees can't hire lobbyists and create SuperPACs. All they do is make honey as they pollinate plants that produce much of our food.
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