ST. PAUL, MINN. — Minnesota governor Mark Dayton on Aug. 25 issued an executive order limiting the use of nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids and initiating several other actions in an effort to reverse the decline of pollinators. The order creates some of the strictest regulations for pesticide use in any state.
The action directs the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to require verification of need prior to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, review product labels and implement restrictions to minimize impact on pollinator communities, increase inspections and enforcement of label requirements for pesticides that are acutely toxic to pollinators, develop pollinator stewardship materials for pesticides to minimize non-target exposures, and continue to develop and promote best management practices designed to protect and enhance pollinator health in Minnesota.
“Bees and other pollinator populations have been in decline in Minnesota and across the country due to a variety of pressures, including habitat loss, pesticides, diseases and parasites,” the order noted. “The Special Registration Review conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture found sufficient scientific evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides present toxicity concerns for honey bees, native bees, as well as other pollinating insects. Pollinator decline is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid economic impact on our farmers and rural communities, and to protect the health of the environment of Minnesota.”
The order included specific actions by the state’s Environmental Quality Board, the Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and the Commissioner of Administration related to neonicotinoid pesticide use and pollinator decline. It also established a 15-member Governor’s Committee on Pollinator Protection.
The governor’s action was taken after a two-year state review of hundreds of scientific studies that concluded neonicotinoid pesticides were harmful to honey bees and other pollinators. The new rules apply only to commercial pesticide applications, not to home use.
Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said his department also will ask the state legislature for authority to regulate seeds treated with pesticides, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently does not regulate treated seeds.
Environmental groups “cheered” the governor’s action while some agriculture groups expressed disappointment, according to M.P.R.
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association said it was a “knee jerk reaction” that limits farmers’ flexibility in use of chemicals that could lead to pest resistance.
The Minnesota Corn Growers Association noted the crucial role of pollinators, but said the restrictions could adversely affect farm revenue and should be evaluated and implemented with care.Minnesota is the nation’s fifth largest agricultural producing state based on cash receipts, ranking first in sugar beets and turkeys, second in hogs and wild rice, third in dry edible beans and oats, and fourth in corn and soybeans.