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 News – Fall 1997 Minimize


State Policy Mandates Minimizing Reliance on Pesticides
Trustees Threaten to Close Highmoor Farm
Forest Ecology Network Working to Defeat Governor’s Forest Compact
Cox Family Offers Cranberry Bog and Beach Day Oct 18


State Policy Mandates Minimizing Reliance on Pesticides

Maine now has an official policy requiring that reliance on pesticides be minimized in the state. The law started as LD1726, An Act to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides, and asked for a 33% reduction in the use of pesticides in Maine within five years – a goal set by MOFGA’s Board of Directors. When that bill failed to get majority support of the Agriculture Committee and stirred up agriculturalists outside of MOFGA, MOFGA’s executive director Russell Libby drafted an amendment that eliminated those specific numbers. “If we continued to insist upon specific reduction standards, we would make enemies of many of the people we’ve been trying to work with,” he said.

The version that eventually passed requires that the Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) “shall implement a system of record keeping, reporting, data collection and analysis that provides information on the quantity of product and brand names of pesticides sold. The board, in cooperation with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, shall study ways to improve pesticide information data bases and to optimize the useful analysis of reported information.”

The BPC is to report by October 1, 1998, and annually thereafter, on the amounts of products sold in the prior year, with the data sorted by sector of use when possible.

The law continues, “It is the policy of the State to work to find ways to use the minimum amount of pesticides needed to effectively control targeted pests in all areas of applications. The agencies of the State involved in the regulation or use of pesticides shall promote the principles and the implementation of integrated pest management and other science-based technology to minimize reliance on pesticides while recognizing that outbreaks of disease, insects and other pests will necessitate fluctuations in pesticide use. These agencies, in cooperation with private interest groups, shall work to educate pesticide users and the general public in the proper use of pesticides and to determine other actions needed to accomplish the state policy.” The bill was widely supported by both the House and Senate.

MOFGA’s amended bill was cosponsored by Sen. Marge Kilkelly and John Nutting. At its hearing, Kilkelly said that failing to pass such a measure would indicate to the public that the state thinks “the status quo is fine … no one is interested … it is not our policy to reduce pesticide use … ” She said that if a pesticide reduction policy were not implemented, the state may face a referendum question about banning aerial spraying (referring to Nancy Oden’s proposal). “How would we respond as a state?” she asked. “Without a policy and data, we would have to say ‘No, we don’t know how much is used … This is not a reasonable response for the public.”

Nutting also argued for the bill in relation to Oden’s referendum proposal. “I’m convinced that next summer and fall, we’re going to be presented with a statewide referendum. We don’t have the money to fight it. Our message is going to have to be very clear if we’re going to win … We can’t be afraid to use the word ‘reduce.’ “

Industry and Citizen Support

Richard Stevenson of Modern Pest Control supported MOFGA’s amended version of the bill, saying that in his business of structural pest control, “We have been reducing pesticide use with rodent traps, insect growth regulators, sex pheromone traps, [other] traps and black lights. LD 1726 is reasonable. It focuses on trying to reduce pesticides – something my company and many others in Maine are trying to do.”

Bill Vail, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, gave “qualified and cautious support” to the amended version. “We clearly agree with the spirit,” he said. “We see some real value in this.” He agreed that data collection about pesticide use is inadequate, but pointed out that the term ‘reduction’ did not account for environmental variables that affect pest populations.

Sanford Kelly, chair of the Maine Blueberry Commission, spoke as an individual, not as a representative of the blueberry industry. “I was against the original bill,” he said, “but the amendment is motherhood. The whole problem is, we never know from year to year what the pest [population] will be. We need to set limits. We are definitely opposed to excessive use of pesticides. We should only use what we need.”

Camden activist and MOFGA member Beedy Parker argued that pesticides should be called ‘biocides’ because of the widespread damage to nontarget organisms that many can inflict and because of the increasing evidence that tiny amounts of many pesticides can harm the endocrine systems of nontarget animals – including humans. She argued that EPA labels and tolerances are inadequate, as is funding for alternatives for pesticides. She told of her discomfort after watching representatives from the chemical industry, applicators, users and sympathetic members of the Maine agricultural establishment argue for the use of more pesticides during a decade or more while she observed and reported on BPC meetings. “Less is safer,” she concluded. “Much less is adequate. We can do it and still grow food and fiber.”

Nancy Ross, former executive director of MOFGA and former president of the Agricultural Council of Maine, said that over the 20 years she had worked with farmers, she has “sensed a real helplessness” regarding what fanners can do to reduce pesticide use and a frustration with finding alternatives. “I hear that Maine agriculturists would be delighted to reduce pesticide use. How do we get there?” she asked. “This resolve is a simple, easy, beginning step. This is where we want to go. It’s hard for me to see why anyone would not want this.”

Russ Libby explained that LD 1726 originated because of a BPC hearing in which “it became clear that the Board didn’t consider pesticide reduction to be part of their mission … We believe that a clear expression of that goal by the Legislature, the representatives of the citizens of the State of Maine, will help to focus attention towards how we can achieve that goal, not just in agriculture, but with homeowners, forestry and other sectors that use pesticides.”

I told the Committee about difficulties I had had getting data about the use of the very toxic insecticide Guthion in Maine, and my surprise, upon eventually getting that data, that its use had increased, despite growers’ and Cooperative Extension’s assurance that less was being used. I told them that of 40 pesticides that I had found recommended for use on potatoes, 12 are mutagens or suspected mutagens; 10 are carcinogens or suspected carcinogens; and 10 are endocrine disrupters. In fact, of 45 chemicals described by wildlife biologist Theo Colburn as endocrine disrupters, 33 are pesticides. This issue has many women worried because of the high incidence of breast cancer and because lactating women are passing many of these chemicals on to their babies.

Maine Dept. of Ag. Opposed, Reprimanded

Maine’s Department of Agriculture led the opposition to the bill. Terry Bourgoin, director of the Division of Plant Industry, said that pesticides “are a very important plant protection tool,” especially for problems like late blight of potatoes, invasive weeds, and outbreaks of browntail moth and encephalitis. He also complained that “we are trying to streamline reporting in the department, and this would increase reporting,” would require more people and computers, and that the bill “may limit the expansion of agricultural enterprises.”

When Rep. John Baker, a member of the Committee, asked, “Do you mean you are against the reduction of pesticide use? The department is against reduction?” Bourgoin answered, “No,” and said that the department “is against a mandated state policy, not against pesticide reduction.” Baker indicated that the department should be able to comply with the bill because it had had fewer cuts than other departments and had ample new computers to do the job, and he pointed out that the bill called for “working towards” pesticide reduction. “I am not pleased with your testimony,” Baker reprimanded Bourgoin, and told him to revise his testimony over the weekend.

Harry Ricker, an apple grower from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, gave several examples of the reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers on his family’s orchards and said, “We’re environmentalists. We’re doing more than those who belong to the cult called MOFGA. Gross sales of our farm are more than the total industry that wrote this bill. This is a powerful group with many misled followers. Please see this bill as a way to manipulate public opinion and not what is environmentally correct.” Baker responded to the cult charges by asking Ricker to stick to the subject of the bill, and he added, “If we had data, we could support what you’re saying. I think we’re all headed toward the same goal.” Ricker answered, “The people who wrote this bill aren’t in the realm of reality.”

Other growers, apparently unaware that many MOFGA members are growers too, complained that “somebody who knows nothing about our business is trying to regulate our business. We are doing everything possible to reduce pesticides … and have reduced our use 50% since 1989. The University of Maine cut the budget for Highmoor Farm. If they [MOFGA] really wanted to help us reduce pesticides,” MOFGA would ask for a reinstatement of the budget for Highmoor.

Another grower said, “All of us using restricted use pesticides are trained to use them safely. The farm community doesn’t have a higher rate of death than the rest of the population.” (Studies have shown higher rates of cancer among some growers, however.)

One complained, “We cannot sell crops that are not 03. People say they want it organic, but they also want it clean and pure. Chemicals cost us money. We don’t want to spend more than we have to. To imply we are using more chemicals than we need doesn’t make sense.” Craig Chick of the Maine State Pomological Society said that in 1996, Chick Orchards purchased a new sprayer for $48,000 in order to reduce pesticide applications by 25 percent. “Pre-IPM,” said Chick, “we made 14 to 15 applications a year. Now, with IPM, we make as little as nine applications annually. One application could cost $19,000. If an application is missed, it could cost me my crop.” Chick said he liked the word ‘minimize’ rather than ‘misuse’ or ‘reduce.’

Molly Shoals, a Rockport blueberry grower, pointed out that large chemical companies won’t invest money in biological pesticides because they don’t think they’ll get sufficient return,/m, their investment. She emphasized the need for long-range research.

That research is really the next step on the agenda. Agricultural interests, including the Agricultural Council of Maine, the Department of Agriculture, the University of Maine and MOFGA, have agreed to meet over the winter to characterize pesticide use in Maine, identify opportunities for reduction, and push for the research needed to realize that reduction.

– Jean English

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Trustees Threaten to Close Highmoor Farm

Because of a $200,000 shortfall in the University of Maine budget, the Trustees of the University want to essentially shut down Highmoor Farm, the only place where research on apples and small fruits is done in the state, and one of the few places where market vegetable production is studied.

The final decision on this matter was still up in the air when we went to press. “As far as we know, the Farm is slated for its budget being slashed to $20,000 at the end of September,” explained extension vegetable and small fruit specialist David Handley. “That will keep the lights on and keep the farm supervisor, if the present scenario goes through.”

Handley went on to explain that the Farm had made significant budget cuts in the past at the request of the Trustees, and across-the-board cuts had been made in other departments of the University, as well. Not wanting to implement those across-the-board cuts again, the Trustees targeted Highmoor for the entire shortfall.

This action directly conflicts with Maine’s new policy to minimize pesticide use. Research on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) at Highmoor has enabled growers to monitor pests, establish action thresholds, and to greatly reduce pesticide use, said Handley. Previously growers would spray by the calendar, regardless of pest pressure. IPM techniques transferred from Highmoor to growers cut pesticide applications from at least 15 or so per season to about nine. Currently, Jim Schupp’s research at Highmoor focuses on Second Stage IPM, which uses disease resistant apples and the latest production and pest management techniques to reduce the number of sprays to two or three per year.

The state’s sweet corn program has been run out of Highmoor, too, Handley continued. It adapted a New Jersey system to Maine conditions and enabled some farmers to cut pesticide use by 50% while improving marketable yield by 75 percent. Almost every grower who implemented the system cut pesticide use significantly.

Likewise, the strawberry IPM program run out of Highmoor showed growers how to reduce the number of sprays they make while improving the quality of their crop. In light of Maine’s new pesticide minimization policy, Handley asks, “How can you impose regulations while the University is cutting back on the research we need to do this? The University apparently hasn’t gotten the message yet.”

The University may listen yet. When the cuts were announced, the Maine Pomological Society asked the University if it could lease the farm, sell the apples, and keep Jim Schupp to do some research. The University liked the idea but its lawyers wanted a guarantee that the Association would be responsible for all liability and indemnity. Unable to afford such insurance, the growers went public with the University’s plan – and a public outcry resulted. Since then the Board of Trustees has been trying to arrange a plan with the growers whereby the Farm could remain open. The growers have contributed several thousand dollars to the Farm each year.

If the cuts go through, their results would be complicated. Handley has a 100% appointment with Cooperative Extension. “Nothing has been said about what happens [to extension personnel],” he remarked. “I assume we’ll move up to campus.” Further complicating the issue is the joint appointment of Schupp, which is 60% research and 40% extension; and a secretary at Highmoor, who is 75% extension.

To express your opinion about the proposed cuts, you can contact your state legislators and the Board of Trustees of the University of Maine.

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Forest Ecology Network Working to Defeat Governor’s Forest Compact

Governor King’s “Compact for Maine’s Forests (2B)”, which received 47% of the vote last November, has been labeled the “Compact for the Continued Destruction of Maine’s Forests” by Jonathan Carter, Executive Director of the newly formed Forest Ecology Network (FEN), a non-profit 501(c)(3), dedicated to protecting and restoring the Maine Woods.

The Governor’s Compact allows for 75-acre clearcuts and does nothing to address the spraying of toxic chemicals in Maine’s wildlands. “The Compact will actually increase chemical spraying by encouraging the creation of monoculture tree plantations,” argues Carter. “The Compact is a political solution to an ecological problem. The 29-page document was created by industry in collusion with a Governor and environmental organizations that receive industry money. It will do nothing to address the issues of clearcutting and overcutting in the Maine Woods.”

Mitch Lansky, noted forest policy analyst and author of Beyond the Beauty Strip: Saving What’s Left of Our Forests, worries that “The changes in forest practices that the Compact mandates are not only insignificant; if it does pass, all meaningful forestry reform legislation in Maine will be tabled for the next five years.”

In an editorial in the Northern Forest Forum, Conrad Heeschen, Maine State Representative from House District 77, writes, “The Compact was created with the express purpose of defeating the referendum, not with long-term sustainable forestry in mind … . More than one source told me that the Compact was essentially what the industry came in with at the start.”

The Forest Ecology Network is comprised of a diverse group of citizens, loggers, scientists, environmentalists, and businesspeople. FEN is working hard to protect the Maine Woods from the insult of industrial forestry, and to promote low-impact, sustainable removal of wood in a way that does not sacrifice the stability of local communities or the ecological and aesthetic integrity of the forest. To join FEN in their efforts, call 1-888-JOIN-FEN, or write to P.O. Box 2218, Augusta, ME 04338. Email: fen@igc.org.

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Cox Family Offers Cranberry Bog and Beach Day Oct 18

Savor the flavor of one of North America’s native fruits while exploring one of Maine’s natural cranberry bogs. For the fourth year in a row, Peter and Eunice Cox of Georgetown will host a cranberry bog and family beach day on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The popular event is at their home on Indian Point Road. Rain date is Sunday, Oct. 19. In the event of rain both days, it will be held Saturday, Oct. 25, or by appointment.

The Coxes encourage visitors to bring a lunch and eat on one of two beaches, explore tidal pools and hunt for shells along the shore. Since cranberries thrive in low, wet ground, boots and warm, old clothing are advised. Weather by the shore is very changeable and can be quite different from that in town. Call for more information.

Tickets for the event sell for $10 per family for a fourquart maximum. Proceeds go toward the super K extended-day kindergarten in Topsham, Maine. Super K is a collaboration between Woodside Elementary School and Pejepscot Head Start offering an all-day program and family support to kindergartners who are at risk.

Donations are tax deductible. Tickets are available through Woodside School, 42 Barrows Drive, Topsham, ME 04086 or 207-725-1234. For information nights and weekends, call Pat Clark at 207-443-4208 or Eunice Cox at 207-371-2541.

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