Compromises made for farms
By Gwendolyn Craig
After making compromises for farming, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Birds and Bees Protection Act, legislation that will restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides shown to be highly toxic to pollinator species. Once implemented, the law will create restrictions on corn, soybean and wheat seed neonicotinoid coatings, as well as neonicotinoid use on lawns and gardens.
The bill faced pushback from the farm lobby, which said such treated seeds reduced sprayed pesticide use.
In her approval memo filed Dec. 22, the Democratic governor explained changes her administration negotiated with legislators. Amendments to the bill now include a two-year waiver farmers may apply for to use neonicotinoids, which the DEC will implement in 2029. Farms may reapply for this waiver every two years. The law’s implementation was also extended from 2027 to 2029 to provide more time for those impacted “to come into compliance with this law, and to make technical changes so that DEC (the state Department of Environmental Conservation) and AGM (the state Department of Agriculture and Markets) can successfully implement this nation-leading law,” Hochul wrote.
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The Hochul administration also hopes the additional time will allow for “innovative research on alternatives and the development of more cost-effective products that are less harmful to the environment,” according to a release.
The governor took her full 10 days after the bill was delivered to her desk to sign the bill. Leading up to it, environmental lobbyists held several year-end press conferences and campaigns calling for her signature. Even the Incredible Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo, who is an environmental advocate, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, calling for Hochul to sign. She did so on Dec. 22.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said Hochul’s “balanced approach” through the chapter amendments “ensures farms will have safe risk management tools that they need to grow food for our state.” The bureau noted the delay in implementation and the waiver helped garner its support.
A news release included a positive statement from Adirondack Council Executive Director Raul (Rocci) Aguirre, noting “the governor’s environmental leadership” and praising the bill’s sponsors. Downstate lawmakers including Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal proposed the legislation.
“This bill accommodates concerns about seed supplies while ensuring transparency and agronomic justification through a waiver process,” Glick, who chairs the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said in a news release. “This groundbreaking legislation will help safeguard the vitality of our pollinators while ensuring a healthier environment for all New Yorkers.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation had also expressed concern that the law would hinder its ability to treat hemlock trees for the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid. The DEC is using such pesticides to treat infected hemlock trees in the Lake George area. The initial bill had been revised to make emergency exceptions for invasive species treatment. The new law includes that language.
Wildlife killing contests
Hochul also signed a law that bans wildlife killing contests for animals including coyotes, crows, squirrels and rabbits. It excludes contests for white-tailed deer, turkeys and bears. Fishing derbies and contests are also excluded.
The law will go into effect on Nov. 1.
Top photo: A swallowtail butterfly on a coneflower. Photo by Mike Lynch