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Sunnyside lawmaker calls bill 'attack' on ag

OLYMPIA - The Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee held a hearing last Thursday on Senate Bill 6397, a measure that opponents say would harm Washington's agricultural community by restricting the use of pesticides.

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, are opposed to the legislation as both come from rural districts with large agricultural regions.

"We are greatly concerned about what this bill will do to Washington citizens and their businesses, from the rural farmer to homeowners taking care of their yards," said Honeyford. "Washington already has rules and agencies to regulate pesticides and to protect our workers. This legislation is an attack on Washington agriculture at a time farmers are asking for help."

The bill would:

· Prohibit applying pesticide that may drift within a half a mile of a child care facility, residence school or "any person outdoors or within the distance necessary to avoid pesticide drift, given the conditions;"

· Require written notice to individuals and employers within the buffer zone that the applicator, "can reasonably determine will likely be outdoors within the buffer zone at any time during the application of the pesticide."

· If notice is given to employers, this bill requires them to provide copies to each employee in the appropriate language. Employers must also make sure employees remain outside the buffer zone or work in fully enclosed indoor work spaces while the pesticide is applied.

Department of Labor and Industries and the Department of Health would be given authority to investigate and enforce alleged violations and assess penalties of $10,000 for each violation.

"This measure would place arbitrary and onerous burdens on industry and non-industry employers and individuals with no history of non-compliance. It would also cost taxpayers millions," King claimed.

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