Farm Bill Provisions Could Gut Endangered Species Protections & Block Local Ability to Reduce Pesticide Use

(By Megan Dunn & Sharon Selvaggio, NCAP Program Directors)


In the 1960s the bald eagle almost went extinct because of the pesticide DDT. Thankfully, scientists like Rachel Carson shared compelling evidence that linked the decline of bird populations with the use of certain pesticides. Local residents advocated for change, and over the years we’ve advanced new policies and restrictions that protect community and environmental health. The bald eagle has soared back from the brink of extinction.

With your support we've forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen its provisions when registering pesticides – especially in its consideration of endangered species, like Northwest salmon and orcas. And we've been able to work with local governments to get community voices heard in limiting pesticides used by cities and counties.

But now the chemical industry has succeeded in getting the House to pass a farm bill with dangerous provisions that would gut these protections. If included in the final version of the bill and voted into law, these actions would severely harm endangered species and put families at additional risk. 

Dangerous Provisions

Among the most dangerous provisions in the House version of the farm bill are the following:

a) Section 9101 would block the ability of local governments to restrict pesticides on city property or in their own communities. This means local governments, including city parks and public spaces, wouldn't be allowed to ban pesticide use in their own communities!

b) Sections 9111, 9113, 9114, 9115, 9116, 9117, and 9118 would remove EPA’s responsibility to consider pesticide impact on endangered species, drinking water and public health. Permits now required when pesticides are sprayed over water would be eliminated.

c) Section 9119 legalizes a pesticide registration program without preserving some worker protections, including provisions that would prohibit children from applying pesticides. Child farmworkers should NEVER be required to handle pesticides, no questions asked.

Why is this so important?

These provisions are only contained within the House farm bill. However, there is potential for these clauses to make it into the final bill unless strong pressure is placed on the farm bill conference committee. If the farm bill passes with these provisions intact, it would overturn decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings and could prevent local governments from tailoring laws to the specific needs of their communities. Over 150 communities across the country have passed policies to restrict the use of pesticides in response to emerging evidence about potential human and environmental impacts. Many of these laws work to protect residents where they live, learn and play. Other city policies focus on safeguarding precious water resources or the protection of wildlife, like declining pollinator species critical to our environment and food supply.

We expect that the committee will not agree on a final version of the bill, and it will expire. This would put important organic and conservation programs at risk. It’s important that Congress move quickly and come to an agreement on this important legislation on which so many farmers rely.

The Opposition

NCAP worked with leadership from national partners, recruiting city officials to support a letter to the farm bill conference committee. The letter included signatures from over 60 local officials across the country, including about 10 from the Northwest, with concerns about the preemption provision. The letter stated that Congress should not be able to block localities’ ability to respond to resident concerns about health or protect their unique local environment regarding toxic pesticides.

Here’s a link to the final letter.

In addition to press around this comment letter, city mayors from Maine wrote a strong editorial letter opposing congressional interference in their mandate to protect community health and environment. From their letter:

Through our deliberations with community stakeholders and experts, we learned from the independent scientific literature that pesticides can harm people and are linked to a range of diseases from cancer to neurological disorders, immune and reproductive effects to respiratory impacts and learning disabilities. We learned that children are at elevated risk from exposure to normal, daily use and that the chemicals end up in our waterways, while putting the health of pets and wildlife, including fisheries and pollinators, at significant risk. Most importantly, our research found that we could successfully maintain our parks, playing fields and private lawns without the use of high-risk pesticides. Read the full letter here.

Take Action

You can continue Rachel Carson’s legacy and take action today to prevent these detrimental provisions from becoming law!

1) Contact your local government and ask them to write a letter opposing section 9101. Use the letter here as an example.

2) Contact your congressional representatives and senators to alert them about the dangerous provisions in Sections 9 and to ask them to vote against any version of the final bill that includes the language contained in Sections 9101, 9111, 9113, 9114, 9115, 9116, 9117, and 9118, and 9119.  See more detail in an existing letter here, signed by numerous House members.

Tell your representative or senator:

As your constituent, I care about protecting the integrity of the farm bill and protecting community and environmental health. Please vote against any version of the final bill that includes the language contained in the House version of the farm bill, Sections 9101, 9111, 9113, 9114, 9115, 9116, 9117, and 9118, and 9119. These sections contain dangerous provisions that would put children at greater risk, could remove local authority to protect public health and gut the EPA’s authority to protect water quality and endangered species. And please support organic and conservation programs that are critical to a healthy food system.

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