Though Kauai's Big 5 ag companies have been disclosing their use of restricted use pesticides since December 2013, Councilman Gary Hooser and his supporters curiously continue their cry for disclosure.
Last Saturday, The Garden Island published a letter to the editor from Rob Brower, whose daughter, Andrea, helped pass Ordinance 960, the pesticide/GMO regulatory bill recently struck down by a federal judge. While claiming no one is “anti-ag,” he wrote:
Ever since the agrochemical industry has come under scrutiny, it has chosen to duck and weave rather than go eye to eye with their host community. Cooperate with disclosure and buffer zone regulations and ante up a few more tax dollars? No, easier to cozy up to the Farm Bureau so they can say, “we’re just a bunch of good ol’ farmers doing good ol’ farming just like your grandpappies did.”
Yet a review of the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor website shows that Syngenta, Dow, BASF, Pioneer and Kauai Coffee have disclosed eight months' use of restricted pesticides. And if I'm reading it right — and it ain't that easy to parse the report — it's a helluva lot.
A tally of the figures show the five ag operations used about 760 pounds and 1,145 gallons (9,160 pounds) of restricted use pesticides (RUP) between January and June 2014. That's a total of 9,920 pounds, or 4.96 tons. Of that, 810.5 pounds were active ingredients like atrazine, paraquat, chlorpyrifos, alachlor and permethrin.
So now that we have solid data on pesticide use, why aren't Gary and his supporters referencing it, instead of continuing to falsely claim that “all they want is disclosure?” Perhaps because the figures show that annual RUP use is closer to 10 tons, rather than the 18 tons Gary continues to assert, or the 17 tons referenced under “let's remember the facts” in Marghee Maupin's guest editorial yesterday.
What, isn't 10 tons sufficient to generate concern? Why such reluctance to stick to actual data — the facts — now that we have it?
Brower goes on to say:
We all support Kauai Coffee.
So why is Kauai Coffee given a free pass, and only the seed companies reviled? The disclosure reports show that in the past six months, Kauai Coffee used 248.9 gallons of Gramoxone, which translates to 497.8 pounds of the active ingredient paraquat dichloride on its fields. In other words, its RUP use is comparable to the seed companies.
Yet Councilman Tim Bynum does not include Kauai Coffee in his ag tax bill, and instead only excludes the seed companies from an ag tax dedication because of the “tremendous impact they've had on the community.” If they're all using comparable amounts of pesticides, wouldn't their impacts be the same?
What is the goal here?
The disclosure reports also provide valuable information about how much ag land is being directly impacted by restricted use pesticides. Though the five companies control thousands of acres, the largest field size where RUPs were applied was 326 acres. Other field sizes ranged from less than an acre to 20-, 30-, 50- and 100-acre fields. Most of the sites were less than 50 acres. This seems to refute the oft-made claim that all of the land is “drenched” with pesticides on a daily basis, while supporting the contention that specific fields are being sprayed. It's impossible to tell from the data whether some fields are being sprayed intensively, as has been claimed, because tax map keys aren't provided.
In another letter to the editor, John Patt writes that Kauai County must “continue our struggle to protect our island from toxins known and unknown,” despite Ordinance 960 being struck down. He goes on to write:
One avenue is to appeal Judge Kurren’s decision. Another approach would be to revise 2491 by concentrating on the pesticide issues and putting the GMO regulations on hold. The dispersal of numerous pesticides into our air and water with unknown consequences, and with multiple untested by-products is a more imminent threat to our health and safety than the GMOs.
What John and others who have not read the court order do not seem to realize is the judge ruled the county has no authority to regulate either GMOs or pesticides. Though it's great John and others are belatedly realizing that pesticides are a greater threat than GMOs, the county's authority in this area has been greatly curtailed by the failure of Ordinance 960.
It seems that many of the 960 supporters still do not realize how much was at stake in this flawed bill that they pushed through — and how much has been lost by the pre-emption decision.
Still, what we do have is voluntary disclosure data on restricted pesticide use — data that could be used to pressure the state to conduct more environmental studies on pesticide drift, and the presence of pesticides in storm runoff, dust, streams and nearshore marine waters. Such studies could guide meaningful actions, if warranted, such as buffer zones, health studies and tighter regulations on use.
Instead, folks are still claiming we have no disclosure and pretending the county has options, both of which stymie any movement forward.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, meanwhile, wants to pursue the EPHIS study, even if it requires an appeal of the judge's order.
Setting aside the fact that an appeal could take a very long time, and an EPHIS even longer, there's also the question of just how meaningful any study will be that is planned and managed by a partisan, politicized group.
If the true objective is to provide relief for the sick and suffering on the westside, why not take steps now to ask the state for help in assessing the situation, using the data that is already disclosed? Or ask the CDC to come in and do a health study?
It's time to take county politics and politicians out of the picture and focus attention and pressure on the state and feds. Either that, or keep wringing our hands and throwing rhetorical jabs and posturing as the pesticide users continue business as usual and the westsiders have no facts to allay their fomented fears.