On October 7, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) held a public hearing to discuss three proposed rule changes and one new rule chapter. Laws passed by the Maine State Legislature last session, which left little room for discussion at the board level, mandated two of the changes. One specifies that the current 500-foot notification distance contained in Chapter 28 of the board’s rules be modified to allow for notification up to 1,000 feet for aerial applications. This seems good on the surface, but, as MOFGA’s associate director Heather Spalding noted in her comments, this is really a loss, because the distance for the notification registry that was abolished with this bill was 1,320 feet. Representatives Jim Dill (D-Old Town) and Jeffrey Timberlake (R-Turner) attended the meeting and did not provide public comment during the hearing, but did speak in support of notification as a needed process. Both, who previously voted to repeal the registry, are on the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and are in a good position to bring back the notification registry if they stand by their statements to the board and choose to do so.
Another agenda item at the public hearing was a request from Laughlin Titus of Ag Matters LLC to eliminate the current BPC requirement for training before purchasing or using genetically engineered corn containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes. Since this item was at the request of a member of the public, rather than mandated by law, the board has flexibility in how it deals with the request and with the public comments. Spencer Aitel, who owns and operates the certified organic Two Loons Farm in South China, spoke in opposition to the rule change, as did MOFGA, citing among other things recent findings of pest resistance to Bt corn in the Midwest.
The board has changed composition since its last meeting. Leaving are Dan Simonds, who was the chair and a forestry consultant from Rangeley, and Tom Qualey, a potato grower from Sherman. Governor LePage appointed Clark Granger of Woolwich to provide forestry expertise and Bruce V. Flewelling, a potato grower from Easton, to provide agricultural expertise. Granger is not a stranger to BPC activities, having recently submitted comments supporting the Special Local Need registration for the use of Diazinon on balsam fir, an issue highlighted in the fall 2011 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.
Board staff recently negotiated a consent agreement with William Gurrisi of Winchester, Mass., for an alleged pesticide application into Lake Sherburne in Waterboro, Maine. This agreement was unusual in that the person who contacted the BPC did not witness the incident, but was alerted to it by someone who did. Gurrisi was allegedly seen flinging something into the water, and when asked what it was by the witness, he allegedly said it was a weed killer. When a BPC inspector confronted Gurrisi about that statement, Gurrisi denied making the application. The BPC inspector returned a week later with a Department of Environmental Protection staffer to collect a water sample from the location where the application was supposedly made. The sample tested positive for 2, 4-D, an aquatic herbicide that by law should be sold in Maine only to licensed applicators. Gurrisi maintains he did not apply the pesticide, but agreed to pay the $250 fine in an effort to end this matter.
– Katy Green