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Farm Bureau opposes measure aimed at banning widely used pesticide

 A harvester hidden behind stalks of corn funnels corn into a large truck.
NY Farm Bureau
A harvester hidden behind stalks of corn funnels corn into a truck.

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used pesticide but they may soon be banned in New York State. They’ve been around since the 1990’s. But last Friday the New York State legislature passed The Birds and Bees Protection Act, which would ban the sale of neonicotinoids in the state.

Not everyone agrees that this is the best decision for agriculture or the environment. The New York Farm Bureau, for example, continues to be very vocal in its position that this bill could cause greater environmental damage than it aims to prevent.

Director of Public Policy at the New York Farm Bureau Jeff Williams says they’re still some of the most advanced technology at fighting bugs on farms.

“You plant the treated seed with just a minute [amount] of pesticide on there, you put it in the ground where no one can touch it and get it and you get that same protection except now we’re spreading an ounce per acre rather than gallons per acre,” Williams said.

Williams says that even though neonicotinoids are better for the environment than traditional insecticides. they still have some adverse effects. Many people worry about their impact on bees or even human health. But Williams says pesticides are a necessary evil.

“There’s no perfect way to grow food to feed a billion people in the world," Williams said. "You have to manipulate nature in some way to make sure you have a hardy crop that you can use and sell and feed people.”

The effectiveness of these pesticides is also commonly questioned. But Williams says sometimes their purpose is misunderstood.

“They may use coated seeds one year and there were never pests in the ground that it needed to protect against," Williams said. "So they probably did lose some money that year because they bought a treatment they didn’t need. But it’s very similar to health insurance. You pay money for health insurance, but in a year where you don’t get sick, there’s no net economic benefit to the health insurance you buy.”

The Birds and Bees Protection Act currently sits on Governor Kathy Hochul's desk awaiting either her approval or veto. Other states including New Jersey and Maine have banned neonicotinoids.