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Industry Tries to Block Court Order on Pesticides and Endangered Salmon
(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2003)
According to the Associated Press (AP), a coalition of pesticide makers and farm groups in Oregon, Washington and California sought to block implementation of a federal court order banning the use of some pesticides along salmon streams pending an appeal, on March 17, 2004.

In a precedent-setting ruling, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour on January 22, 2004 issued a ruling that restricts the use of 38 pesticides near salmon streams and requires point-of-sale warnings on products containing pesticides that may harm salmon. The ruling came in a case brought by fishing and conservation groups. The ruling followed Coughenour's 2002 decision that found EPA out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect salmon from harmful pesticides. The Judge ordered EPA to consult with the NOAA Fisheries to establish permanent restrictions needed to protect salmon from 54 pesticides, over a two-and-a-half-year timeline. The ruling puts in place no-spray buffers of 100 yards for aerial applications and 20 yards for ground applications, with exceptions for certain uses that are unlikely to pollute water.

The coalition appealing the ruling includes CropLife America, a trade group representing pesticide makers such as Bayer, Dow and Monsanto, and farm groups. Seema Mahini, a CropLife lawyer, told the AP that the order irreparably harms growers. A federal study estimates the buffers will force some producers to remove crops near streams, costing farmers in Oregon and Washington $100 million.

That's an exaggeration, environmental groups charge, because farmers can keep on farming using other chemicals and chemical-free substitutes. Aimee Code, a water-quality coordinator at the Eugene-based Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, told the AP that she hopes the ruling prompts farmers to use less-toxic methods. “If we're going to be growing within 20 yards of a river, we need to be thinking of how we're treating that specific area,” she said. CropLife argues that the alternatives are too expensive.

So far, though, little effort has been made to enforce the ban, and many homeowners haven't even heard about it. “Who is even going to be able to figure this out to be able to enforce it?” asked Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Lane County Extension Service. "Boy, that's a lot of streams," he added. "Who's even going to be out there looking around?"

Consumer awareness probably will rise when court-mandated "salmon hazard" warnings appear by April 5 at lawn-and-garden stores in some cities. The judge ordered the EPA to develop the warning for products with seven specific pesticides. The warning will state: "This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams."