HB 495 Defeated but Significant Damage Done to Lawn Care Industry
After a full year of review, study and several incarnations of the legislation, the Environment and Agriculture Committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down the implementation of a law that would prevent the application of many pesticides where children congregate. Those who were involved with the creation and support of the bill were not surprised by the committees failure to take action on the proposed legislation as the vote followed party lines almost to a tee with only one republican crossing the aisle to vote for the measure. Although this comes as a disappointment to everybody involved with the effort to pass the bill, Representative Suzanne Smith, who sponsored the bill released this statement,
“At last week’s public hearing, proponents of HB495 spoke eloquently of the need to protect children who play on the grounds of schools and day care centers from possible health risks due to exposure to pesticides. At the close of the hearing, all involved thought we did an excellent job presenting clear concise information and good solid research.”
Representative Smith has been an absolute key figure in bringing this information to the forefront of a very important debate when it comes to the safety of our children. Her work, along with the effort of Ellen Fine of the “Leah Collective” should be commended publicly and we all owe them significant applause for everything they have done over the the last year. It’s my opinion that even the members of the committee who voted against the legislation should be given thanks for giving the case so much consideration.
In the end, I imagine it is ironic that many of the members of the committee stated, on the record, that they were from agricultural and horticultural backgrounds. Many of them spoke of their own personal beliefs in regard to organic methods in the lawn and garden and often said that they personally would not use pesticides on their own property. In most cases it was simply their political belief that the government need not take action on an issue that would essentially control a freedom of choice. Although I strongly disagree with this stance, one can’t help but see the political process and how it effects our everyday issues. The Republican members of the committee believed that since there was no legislation saying that turf managers had to use pesticides in the care of their turf, there shouldn’t be legislation that says they can’t. Simply put, the conservative “hands off” approach to government prevailed over the theory that it is the job of our legislators to protect our children.
Damage Done to the Lawn Care Industry
Throughout this entire process I have to say that I’ve been frustrated often by the misinformation that was generated by both sides involved with the debate. As this argument concludes I firmly believe that pro pesticide lobby and some very ill advised members of the lawn care industry have done significant and I mean SIGNIFICANT damage to the image of the turf care industry.
Talking to many of the supporters of the bill I often found that their perception of our industry was that all lawn care companies and turf managers have a blatant disregard for the environment, the public safety and to be honest, the health of our children. When a company like Syngenta or Bayer stands up with their fist in the air to defend the use of pesticides one can see that it is their goal to keep their revenue flowing. If the sale of a companies products is made illegal, well, naturally they have a serious problem. However, when a lawn care person stands up to do the same thing it perpetuates the stereotype that all “lawn guys” are evil. The truth is that most lawn care services don’t employ the arsenal of cancer causing agents that the anti pesticide people think they do. The list that was bounced around for prohibition has some very scary chemicals on it that even the most evil lawn care service would never use. In fact the list of pesticides that most lawn care companies use is limited to 4 or 6 products. Most lawn care companies don’t want to use even these products because they cost a lot of money AND because they know that their customers don’t want them too.
My question, with that being said, is why would a lawn care person stand up and angrily defend the use of chemicals. To be honest, it made a thoughtful and progressive industry look archaic and old fashioned. The lawn care industry is not an empty, egotistical suit that is out of touch with what the consumer wants. It is a “boots on the ground” progressive movement in environmentalism. (At least it’s getting there)
Here is a small excerpt of the testimony that I presented to the committee,
“I want to read a brief quote from a book written by Annie Spiegelman, a popular garden writer, it’s called “Talking Dirt” and its about just how effective and easy the switch to chemical free agriculture can be. She writes comically,
‘Spraying toxic chemicals is so 60 years ago! It went out with those silent, smiling mothers on Valium who held babies in one hand and a cigarette and a cocktail in the other, swaggering around their suburban lawns that had just been sprayed by the Chemlawn guy.’
I can tell you long gone are the days where a tanker truck pulls up to a field and pumps pungent, colored liquids that contain Orthene into the trees and cholordane into the grass. Todays turf manager is responsible and educated. They want to do what their customers expect and what their constituents and bosses demand.
Using Annie’s words as a starting point I truly believe that it is time for New Hampshire to take substantial action and implement this legislation to be certain that children are NOT exposed products that are known to cause cancer or to interfere with a child’s hormones.
The turf industry has come a long way and this measure we are debating today would finally bring the entire argument full circle. By implementing legislation that helps companies decide what product is appropriate for use and what isn’t New Hampshire will be taking the final step in protecting it’s citizens from an unnecessary danger.
Even though the bill was not passed I would like to challenge those involved to continue the work but in a different manner. Truthfully, the use of pesticides really isn’t necessary to create healthy grass and after listening to even the opposition of the bill, I think everybody knows that now. Let’s continue to spread the message that there is a better way, a Safer Way. I wrote in a previous essay that it would be the invisible hand of economic influence that would actually create a prohibition of the use of pesticides and I believe that is where this is going. Instead of the state telling you what to do as a turf manager the rule of supply and demand will do just fine. Do an internet search of any city followed by the term “organic lawn care” and you will find thousands and thousands of responsible companies doing the right thing.
If anybody in the general public is reading this, please don’t let the ignorance of a few ruin the reputation of the masses. Let’s move forward with this movement on our own accord.