ALBANY — Today, the New York State Assembly voted to advance legislation that will cause serious problems for some of the state’s most important industries and negatively impact the management and elimination of the growing number of invasive species in New York.
As passed, A.7249-A will prohibit the sale or use of neonicotinoid products including treated corn, soybean and wheat seed in New York.
Seed treatments play a critical role in agriculture and the production of healthy crops. Coating seeds with a small amount of pesticides prior to planting protects them when they are most vulnerable to disease and insects.
New agricultural technologies, like treated seeds, have greatly improved farmers ability to directly target pests, and reduce the need for additional spraying of pesticides. Because seed treatments are attached to the seed, rather than sprayed, treated seeds eliminate exposure to non-target plants, animals and humans.
“The New York State Assembly must let science be their guide when setting farm policy. Seed coatings are a valuable part of New York State’s highly regarded pest management program that works to protect pollinators. Banning this precision technology that minimizes spraying would increase exposure to other products and limit the availability of seeds needed for food production in New York State. We encourage lawmakers to work with the state’s farmers to find a better solution to protect our people and food supply,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.
“Applying minute amounts of neonics as a seed treatment assures that corn and soybean growers will get a viable crop each year,” stated AJ Wormuth, Northeast Dairy Producers Association Board member and Chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee. “Seed Corn Maggot is one of our biggest soil borne pests and, as demonstrated by Professor Elson Shields of Cornell University, corn and soybean farmers stand to lose an entire crop and hundreds of dollars per acre if these vulnerable seedlings are not protected. As we develop our soil health practices, the need for treated seeds will only increase.”
“New York vegetable growers work hard to make sure their products are of the highest quality for our customers. Taking away the ability to use safe and effective products like treated seeds that increase our crop yield will put New York’s $166 million vegetable industry at a great disadvantage and potentially raise the price we will need to charge for our products” said Brian Reeves, President of the NYS Vegetable Growers Association.
New York has a rigorous pesticide review and regulatory process. A complete elimination of a class of agricultural products will cause undue complications for New York farmers, who already operate on razor thin margins and many of whom are still recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“New York is one of the most stringent states when it comes to pesticide regulations,” said Danielle Penny Stroop, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance President. “Our scientists review the safety of all pesticides and their use and impact on the environment and human and animal health. New York lawmakers need to trust the experts and not unnecessarily legislate the existing regulatory process.”
In addition to banning treated seeds, A.7429-A also prohibits the sale or use of any neonic products in landscape and golf course environments. “The loss of this critically important pest management tool will mean that we won’t be able to control pests that invade lawns, shrubs and other valuable green spaces,” stated Larry Wilson, Chair of the New York Green Industry Council. “Through best management practices, we can minimize any interaction with pollinators. Simple practices like timing applications following the bloom stage solves the problem.”
“This bill could have disastrous results for not only crops, but forests and other green spaces across New York,” said John Bartow, Executive Director of the Empire State Forest Products Association. “Neonics have been found to be among the most effective tools to combat invasive species like the Spotted Lantern Fly, the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle. “Just to our south, invasives like the Spotted Lantern Fly have wreaked havoc on orchards, vineyards and other valuable crops. We can’t let that happen here and put our growers at a disadvantage and threaten our forests and natural resources.”
Prohibiting technological innovation for agriculture moves counter to New York’s broader climate and sustainability goals. Removing these tools would impact the state’s carbon footprint, requiring additional tractor passthroughs or product to be applied. The increased tillage to fight pests and inability to properly cover crop would also release more carbon into the air, a step backwards on the soil health initiatives that farms are increasingly adopting.
Proponents of A.7429-A say they are working to protect pollinators; however, pesticides are not to blame for pollinator challenges. Fortunately, honeybee colonies in New York are doing better than the national average, which could be attributed to New York’s nationally recognized Pollinator Protection Plan and last years passage of Chapter 160, which seeks to improve pollinator health through the monitoring and reporting of disease and parasites, the number one and two stressors to New York bees, through the apiary industry advisory committee and cooperative honeybee health improvement program.
A newly released report from the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) shows that as of 2021, the impact of pesticides on honey bee colonies in New York was negligible.
A far more worrisome stressor to honeybee colonies is the varroa mite.
“There’s irony in passing this bill on ‘Legislative Earth Day’,” said Brian Reeves. “Banning new technologies that decrease the use of pesticides and protect against the growing threat of invasive species actually will do more harm than good to our environment and will do little to protect bees and other pollinators that are critical to agriculture in New York.”
A.7429A introduced by Assemblyman Steve Engelbright and was advanced on a 104-41 vote.