Local Representative Targeting misuse of pesticides advances

State Representative Don Lehe's bill would increase the fines paid by people who misuse pesticides. Indiana's fines are much lower then surrounding state. Experts say the increase in fines is much needed.

Posted: Jan 24, 2020 6:35 PM

INDIANA, (WLFI)- A local state representative is proposing a bill to crack down on pesticide violations in the Hoosier State. The misuse of pesticides mostly affects soybean farmers, experts on pesticides say this bill is a step in the right direction.

"I think most of the questions kind of come into play concerning Dicamba herbicide applications to soybeans,” said Bill Johnson a Professor of Weed Science at Purdue University. “Over the last three years the number of complaints turned in to the office of the Indiana state chemist has gone from the average of five a year to over 130 a year."

Dicamba herbicide can cause damage to neighboring soybean fields if they aren't resistant to the spray. The damage can cause the crop to have wilted leaves and look unhealthy. While there are fines in place for chemical drift right now, they aren't high enough to stop people from violating the rules.

"Too many folks were paying the fine and just kept on violating the standard,” said Representative Don Lehe. “Now they have to show that they are doing their best to follow the rules and prevent further damage."

State Representative Don Lehe says the current fine for the first misuse of pesticides is only $250. Under Lehe's new bill the first time violation would be $500, the second would be $1000 and all continued violations would be increased to $2,500. Pesticide experts say while this is a step in the right direction, Indiana's rates are still lower than most surrounding states.

"In other states, I know the fines can go as high as $10,000 for one violation and so really even increasing ours to $1,000 is a move in the right direction but it still may not be enough," said Johnson.

Lehe's bill passed the House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate. The legislation has support from the Indiana State Chemist, Farm Bureau and several other agriculture groups across the state. To read the bill in its entirety click here.

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