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Crop duster plane, shown in 2018.

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BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment from the agriculture community on its proposed changes to rules around pesticide and chemigation use and application.

The department hosted a negotiated rulemaking meeting over WebEx on Tuesday to go through its proposed changes to the pesticide rules and to listen to public comment on the changes. The meeting was only the first step in the process as the department makes the final changes to present to the Idaho State Legislature in January.

The proposed changes include adding new definitions and categories in the applicator licensing categories, reviewing the rules to implement Gov. Brad Little’s Zero-Based Regulation Executive Order, and removing the sections requested by the Idaho Agricultural Aviation Association in the 2020 legislative session.

Each of the proposed changes can be found on the departments website under “Rulemaking” at agri.idaho.gov. People can also submit comments on the changes through July 21 to Brian Oakey at brian.oakey@isda.idaho.gov.

During the WebEx session, Oakey said the comments will be available on the department’s website for the public to view. He said the department will hold another meeting to address the public comments and take them into consideration in the rulemaking process after July 21.

The changes requested by the Idaho Agricultural Aviation Association include removing the sections pertaining to applying pesticides in wind speeds above 10 mph, low-flying prohibitions and pesticide application in hazard areas. The association argued that the section related to wind speeds is redundant because the Environmental Protection Agency requires pesticide products to have the wind speed warning on the labels. The association argued that the low-flying and hazard area warnings should be removed because those regulations are enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration, not the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

During the Tuesday meeting, Jonathan Oppenheimer, government relations director at Idaho Conservation League, asked about the FAA enforcement of the low-flying and hazard areas rules and how the rules protect farmworkers and public health. An ISDA representative could not answer that question, but said the department hoped a local representative of the FAA would be at the next rulemaking meeting to discuss enforcement.

During the legislative session, farmworker advocates expressed concern over the rule changes, saying legislators were not taking farmworker health and safety into consideration when allowing the rule rollbacks.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com.

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