UPDATE (10 a.m. PT) — The Oregon Legislature plans to take another run at phasing out the use of a controversial pesticide called chlorpyrifos after falling short last year.

News of the recently-filed bill circulated during Thursday’s Chlorpyrifos Work Group meeting, an Oregon Department of Agriculture advisory committee charged with looking into the possibility of limiting the pesticide’s use.

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide mainly used on Christmas trees, leafy greens and alfalfa. Its use has been linked to harmful effects on the human body. 

Grant Robinson cuts pesticide-free Christmas trees on a farm near Molalla, Ore.

Grant Robinson cuts pesticide-free Christmas trees on a farm near Molalla, Ore.

Tony Schick/OPB

“It’s no secret that we’ve been working on this issue for a very long time,” Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste’s Martha Sonato said. “At the national level, we were part of the lawsuit with our partners, Earthjustice, regarding EPA’s decision to not take action on chlorpyrifos.” 

The proposed bill – House Bill 4109 – focuses on four main prongs to successfully phase out chlorpyrifos in the next two years. First, it would prohibit aerial use of any product containing chlorpyrifos and prohibit applying the pesticide within 300 feet of a school. It would also require employers to ensure workers do not enter areas in which the pesticide was applied within eight preceding calendar days. Finally, the bill would prohibit the sale of chlorpyrifos by 2022. 

The bill is being led by Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Beyond Toxics and Oregon AFL-CIO and has 12 chief sponsors and 18 co-sponsors. Its lead backers in the Legislature are Reps. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, and Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, on the House side and Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, in the Senate.

“For far too long agricultural workers have been exposed to this highly toxic substance, impacting their health and the health of their families,” Holvey said in an emailed statement. “It’s time for Oregon to move forward and phase out the use of Chlorpyrifos.”

While several members of the advisory panel said they were reluctant to consider an outright ban of chlorpyrifos, that’s just what the newly-filed bill would do if approved by the Legislature after it convenes next month.

Chlorpyrifos Work Group member Jenny Dresler is also Interim Executive Director of the pesticide-use advocacy group, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, and with the Oregon Farm Bureau. 

“We have come to the table in good faith, we’re having conversations with growers about the possibilities of this work group and this rules advisory committee could result in some limitations in a product,” Dressler said. 

She said she was surprised to hear legislation has been introduced to once again try and ban the pesticide. 

“I do think it undermines the intent of this group to have an outcome already put forward in legislation and we did convey that concern today … it is one approach but it’s not one that considers Oregon-specific needs.”

Despite receiving criticism from the work group members, Sonato said if the legislation were to pass there would still be a need for a rule-making process. 

“All of us are in the same space and that already provides us with that much-needed space for conversation around how we can better protect our families and our children,” Sonato said.

The committee will meet again on March 30 – likely after the upcoming legislative session is over.