Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Local Pesticide Control: How Your Town Can Protect Health and the Environment

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IntroductionLocal Pesticide Control

MOFGA Public Policy Teach-In

Local Pesticide Control: How Your Town Can Protect Health and the Environment

September 2016
Common Ground Country Fair

With a 700-percent increase in the distribution of home-use pesticide products in Maine in recent years,1 what are citizens’ options when state and federal governments are not adequately protecting our health and the environment from these toxic chemicals? 

Maine is fortunate to be one of seven states that allow towns to create local laws that are more restrictive than state or federal laws. Currently, 26 Maine municipalities have passed ordinances tailored to the special needs of their communities and restricting pesticide use beyond state requirements.2 The most comprehensive, in Ogunquit, prohibits outdoor pesticide application on public and private property. South Portland and Portland are considering similar prohibitions.

Our 2016 Teach-In features the cofounder of a national advocacy organization, the sustainability coordinator for one of Maine’s largest cities, a local activist, a town conservation commission chair, a director of a conservation organization and a physician. Hear how they are helping their communities better protect themselves from pesticide exposure.


Mary Cerullo is associate director of the South Portland marine conservation organization Friends of Casco Bay. She is responsible for publications, public relations and educational outreach, including the environmentally friendly lawn care program, BayScaping. She is the author of 21 award-winning children’s books on the ocean.

Jay Feldman cofounded the advocacy organization Beyond Pesticides and has been director since 1981. In 1978 he dedicated himself to finding solutions to pesticide problems after working with farmworkers and small farmers through an EPA grant to work with the national advocacy organization Rural America. Feldman has since helped build Beyond Pesticides’ capacity to help local groups and impact national pesticide policy. He has tracked specific chemical effects, regulatory actions and pesticide law. He has helped develop successful reform strategies for local communities. His work with media has broadened public understanding of the hazards of pesticides. In September 2009 USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Feldman to the National Organic Standards Board, where he completed a 5-year term in January 2015. He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Fair, marking the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

Avery Yale Kamila, a journalist with a degree in environmental science, grew up on an organic farm in Maine and attended the first Common Ground Country Fair held in her hometown of Litchfield. A resident of Portland, she and Portland businesswoman Maggie Knowles formed the grassroots group Portland Protectors in 2015 to urge the City Council to adopt a comprehensive pesticide ordinance. She has been serving as the citizen advocate on the Portland Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force, which is expected to complete its work by mid-September 2016. Kamila is a former staff writer for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and currently writes the Vegetarian Kitchen column for the paper’s Wednesday Food & Dining section.

Mary Ann Nahf chairs the Harpswell Conservation Commission. Harpswell is an island community with 216 miles of shoreline. Since 2004, through a combination of educational programs and ordinances, residents have reduced polluted runoff into Casco Bay. In 2009 the Board of Selectmen was the first to take the pledge to “minimize the use of pesticides and other things that pollute our waters.” The pledge applied to town properties, and residents signed cards “taking the pledge” for their own properties. In 2013 a ban on the use of chemical fertilizer in the shoreland zone was enacted. To give helpful tips, later that year the Commission produced “A Resident’s Conservation Guide to Casco Bay.” In March 2016 residents unanimously voted to prohibit the use of pesticides that affect aquatic invertebrates and pollinators.

Julie Rosenbach is the sustainability coordinator for South Portland, where she works on climate action planning, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, waste reduction and recycling programs, alternative transportation options, minimizing toxics, and education and outreach regarding sustainability practices. Previously she was an EPA environmental protection specialist and the Bates College sustainability manager. 

Dr. Bruce Taylor, a former professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology and Intensive Care at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Corpus Christi, is board-certified in pediatrics and anesthesiology and has held a fellowship in genetics and metabolism at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. At Boston Children’s Hospital he also did a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology. Semiretired, he teaches at the University of New England and University of Southern Maine. Dr. Taylor has a special interest in the environmental etiology of disease and is a member of the Toxics Committee of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Chapter, as well as a Town of Sweden selectman. 

Moderator Paul Schlein is on MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee and was the public information officer for the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

1 Source: Maine Board of Pesticides Control