How to Save the Chesapeake Bay through Pesticide Regulatory Reform in Maryland: A Policy Memo

To:Governor Larry Hogan

From: Jack Owens, Davidson College Undergraduate, Baltimore Resident, and Environmental Politics Scholar

Subject: Addressing Solutions to Agricultural Pesticide Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay

 

Pesticides pose a large threat to the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay.

As a resident of Maryland, I understand how we pride ourselves in the Chesapeake bay, for its rich population of wildlife, and ability to support the livelihoods of thousands of fisherman that require its biodiversity for fishing. This biodiversity is put at risk through pesticide use. Recently Maryland’s senate passed the Protection of Pollinators Act, barring general use of neonicotinoid pesticides by 2018.1 However, amendments to this bill allow farmers to continue to use neonicotinoid pesticides and other restricted use pesticides.2 These pesticides have been linked to immune suppression in fish along with intersex development in small mouth bass.3 In addition, pesticide exposure in humans has been linked to low birth weights and intrauterine growth retardation.4 Pesticide pollution has also not substantially decreased over the past decade. A 2011 study done by the NOAA determined that pesticide toxicity for rainbow trout and duck grass has increased since 2004, meaning pesticides pose an even greater risk to biological diversity and overall Bay health, in addition to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s studies in 2012 that determined areas of chemical contamination in the Bay have only increased from 2008-2012.5,6

Since Maryland’s agriculture industry accounts for 75% of pesticide use, better solutions must be established in order to better the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay, and ensure safe water for citizens of the bay watershed area.7 This memo will detail four ways in which policy can be created to combat pesticide pollution, along with an analysis to determine which solution will be the most effective with the greatest degree of feasibility. By analyzing each solution through a decision analysis I find that increasing MDA inspections of pesticide applicators will be the most feasible and effective method to decrease pesticide pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Three Possible Solutions

  1. Do nothing

The Pollinator Protection Act will curb pesticide use by 25%, but will have no affect on farmers who will be allowed to continue to use them.2 Agricultural pollution will remain stagnant and the toxicity of pesticides will most likely continue to increase based on the trends from 2000-2004.5 This increase in toxicity could potentially lead to further pollution and negate the efforts made by the Protection Act.

  1. Remove the Amendments of the Pollinator Protection Act that protect farmers from pesticide regulation

Neonicotinoid pesticides will no longer be available for purchase or able to be used in Maryland. This will protect the health of pollinators across the state, and curb pesticide pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. However, there will be a large negative impact on the agriculture industry, as it will call for new techniques to combat pests without pesticides. This will have lasting social benefits in encouraging more sustainable farming practices.

  1. Increase the frequency of MDA inspections to ensure BPM’s are being met.

As of 2016, the MDA is only required to inspect farms once every 12-18 months.8 These inspections ensure that certified pesticide applicators are using pesticides safely, and within the terms of the Pesticide Applicator’s Law. Increasing the frequency of these inspections will ensure BPMs (best practice measurements) are being met, and will encourage farmers to further pursue BPMs in order to pass inspections. BPMs are generally regarded as the most cost effective and overall effective solution to pesticide pollution.7

  1. Provide monetary rewards for farmers who move away from pesticide use and into organic farming.

This will shift the dependency on pesticides for farming and allow farmers to value a pesticide free system. A similar program started in Iowa in 2005, which was met with much praise.9 This will require an immense amount of administrative and economic coordination In creating an entirely new system of taxing and agriculture management in Maryland.

ANALYZING THE SOLUTIONS

         The solutions will be analyzed through a decision analysis framework based on four criteria: Administrative feasibility (how difficult it will be to be passed through congress), economic feasibility (how expensive it will be), environmental costs and benefits (how much it helps the environment), and social costs and benefits (how positive of an impact will there be on public opinion). Each of these solutions will be analyzed on a 1-3 scale, 1 meaning low feasibility or low benefits, and 3 meaning high feasibility and greater benefits. The categories will then be weighted based on their level of importance. Administrative feasibility and environmental costs and benefits are weighted higher than economic feasibility and social benefits due to the necessity for a law to be able to be passed, and the importance the environment of the Chesapeake Bay has for ensuring safe water consumption and a healthy biodiversity.

RECOMMENDATION

         Based on the criteria decision analysis I recommend that policy be created that will increase the amount of MDA inspections through the Maryland Pesticide Applicator’s law. This solution is the most feasible due to its ability to create an environment that promotes pesticide awareness while still maintaining a stable market in agriculture. While this does not immediately address the problem of pesticide pollution by eliminating pesticides, it will take steps to ensure that pollution will not increase. The next best alternative to this will be to provide tax incentives to organic farmers. While this option would be incredibly expensive and difficult to pass through the legislature, the environmental and social benefits would be a new market that prides itself in pollutant free practices. By instituting one of these two policies, steps will be made to ensure that the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay, and the health and safety of Maryland citizens, will improve.

 

 

 

  Administrative Feasibility Economic Feasibility Environmental Costs and Benefits Social Costs and Benefits Unweighted Average Weighted Average
Do Nothing 3 2 1 1 1.75 1.815
Increase Farm Regulations 1 1 3 1 1.5 1.65
Increase MDA Inspections 2 3 2 2 2.25 2.31
Provide Tax Incentives for Organic Farmers 1 1 3 3 2 1.98
Criteria Weighting .33 .165 .33 .165    

Bibliography

 

  1. “Pollinator Act of 2016.” Maryland General Assembly. March 10, 2016. Accessed

March 20th, 2016

mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=03&id=sb0198

&tab=subject3&ys=2016RS

  1. Pollinator Protection Act of 2016. Maryland Gen. Assemb. SB 198. 2016.
  2. US Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife

Service, 2012 Toxic Contaminants in the Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed:

Extent and Severity of Occurrence and Potential Biological Effects, USEPA

Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Annapolis, MD, December, 2012, 175 pages.

  1. Munger, Ronald, Peter Isacson, Song Hu, Trudy Burns, James Hanson, Charles F.

Lynch, Keith Cherryholmes, Paul Van Dorpe, and William J. Hausler. 1997.

“Intrauterine Growth Retardation in Iowa Communities with Herbicide-

contaminated Drinking Water Supplies”. Environmental Health Perspectives 105

(3). [National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Brogan & Partners]:

308–14. doi:10.2307/3433268.

  1. Hartwell, S. Ian. “Chesapeake Bay Watershed Pesticide Use Declines but Toxicity

Increases.” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30, no. 5 (2011): 1223-231.

Accessed March 20, 2016.

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