Cunningham Report 3.23.2017

Illegal Use of Herbicides

This week a piece of legislation that will help put an end to illegal herbicide spraying in Missouri’s Bootheel farm country was passed and delivered to the governor.

House Bill 662 will allow the Department of Agriculture to investigate complaints of illegal use of herbicides, anywhere in the state, by subpoenaing witnesses and allow-ing access to certain records. Once the governor signs the law it will also allow the Department of Agriculture to impose a fine of up to $10,000/acre to those who knowingly use an illegal herbicide.

As many of us in the Bootheel know agriculture is the state’s No. 1 industry, contributing to $88.4 billion in revenue for our state. As in some areas in the 33rd District and across the state, some devastating crop damage can be attributed to illegal use of herbicides. Until the General Assembly passed House Bill 662, there was no way to penalize those farmers who used the herbicides in a manner they are not intended to be used.

These illegal herbicides are fre-quently used for weed control, however it is causing damage to trees and crops. Some of the worst cases involve farmers using the off-brand herbicide and then it blows over onto other nearby farms and crops, causing damage. In order to allow Missourians to continue having successful farming operations it was imperative to pass this piece of legislation.

With the passage of this bill the Department of Agriculture can now also recoup the costs of their investigations. Once the law is signed, the Department of Agricul-ture can impose fines on individuals who knowingly apply an illegal herbicide. Fines include up to $10,000/acre, and the fine increases if that individual is a chronic violator. Those fines would be up to $25,000/acre. If found guilty, the individual can also be held liable for all costs associated with the Department of Agriculture’s testing of fields and more. The department will also have the authority to deny, suspend, or revoke a license, permit or certification issued under the Missouri Pesticides Use Act.

The passage of this legislation could not come at a better time, as planting season is just around the corner.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.