Court ruling in Hawaii finds that crop protection is state law
A United States District Court in Hawaii recently reinforced the role of state law in regulating the use of pesticides and biotechnology in an Aug. 25 ruling. CropLife America (CLA), the national trade association for the crop protection industry, is pleased that U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren decided in favor of plaintiffs in Syngenta Seeds, Inc., et al. v. Kauai County and ruled that Kauai Ordinance 960 is invalid and preempted by Hawaii state law.
Kauai County passed Ordinance 960 in a misguided attempt to regulate five specific growers’ use of pesticides and biotechnology through a county-level ordinance, despite state law established to regulate these modern agricultural tools. Ordinance 960’s requirements placed an undue financial burden on the targeted growers and required disclosure of confidential business information that is protected by Hawaii and federal law. Such public disclosure would have exposed these growers to potential acts of vandalism, trade secret theft and harassment. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kurren rightly recognized the role that the Hawaii Pesticide Law (HPL) plays in regulating pesticides, and that state pesticide law preempts the county-specific Ordinance 960. HPL sets out a uniform platform for regulating pesticide use, which includes establishing the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and the Department of Health (HDOH) as having regulatory authority over pesticide use and enforcement within the state.
“The regulatory system for crop protection products is purposefully robust and protective of human health and the environment,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “We thank Judge Kurren for recognizing that federal and state statutes are established to help ensure the responsible use of modern farming technologies, including crop protection products and biotechnology.”
Ordinance 960 also attempted to circumnavigate state law regarding the regulation of biotechnology crops. State law vests the HDOA with exclusive rulemaking authority over agricultural research and the regulation of biotechnology.
The agricultural seed industry is a vibrant contributor to the Hawaii economy. According to an economic analysis commissioned by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, the Hawaii seed industry contributes approximately $144 million of economic activity to the state’s economy. This generates $13.8 million in annual taxes to the state, $137 million in annual labor income and more than 2,500 jobs.
“The crop protection industry supports a sound science-based pesticide regulatory system. In addition to being preempted by Hawaii state law, the provisions in Ordinance 960 have no basis in sound science,” noted Rachel Lattimore, senior vice president and general counsel at CLA. “Any further attempts to advance Ordinance 960 would present little more than a waste of government resources.”
For more information about the crop protection industry, visit www.croplifeamerica.org.
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