House Committee approves measure to address pesticide disposal, raise fee for Agriculture

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that would triple the amount of money the state Agriculture Department could devote to disposal of unused/unwanted pesticides was endorsed Monday by a House of Representatives panel.

Senate Bill 419 was approved 9-0 by the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services. 

The measure was supported by Reps. Jerry Shoemake, D-Morris, and Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs.

The most pertinent part of the 17-page bill is a paragraph on page 11.

Pesticide manufacturers such as Dow and Monsanto are required to pay a $160 annual fee to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry, to register their products for sale in Oklahoma. SB 419 would increase the revenue from that fee which is earmarked for “conducting programs for unwanted pesticide disposal”: from $100,000 to $300,000 annually.

The agency’s costs for disposing of unused/unwanted pesticides have grown, said Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, House sponsor of S.B. 419 and chair of the A&B subcommittee.

Kouplen asked whether the additional $200,000 would be diverted from some other ODAFF program.

Blayne Arthur, deputy commissioner of the agency, indicated the money has not been generated yet. Instead, “As more people apply for the program and get licensed, we will be able to put those dollars toward pesticide disposal,” she said. Any revenue above the dedicated amount is routed to the agency’s Consumer Protection Services Division, she added.

That division ensures and enforces quality standards for agricultural products, regulating pesticide use, providing information and technical assistance to consumers. The laws enforced by that division affect goods and services associated with Oklahoma’s apiary, ag-lime, ornamental plant, vegetable plant, feed, seed, fertilizer and pesticide industries.

ODAFF held two pesticide disposal collection events last year, Arthur said. One held at Wilburton on Nov. 19 produced 6,353 pounds of material, and one held Nov. 21 at Kingfisher generated 51,792 pounds of unwanted pesticides, agency officials reported. Another collection event will be held in April, Arthur said.

ODAFF has collected 767,192 pounds of unused/unwanted pesticides since the start of the program in 2006, she said. Since the program is underwritten by the state agency, “There is no charge to farmers and applicators when disposing of unwanted pesticides,” she said.

The Agriculture, Food, and Forestry agency contracts with Clean Harbors Environmental Services to dispose of the unwanted pesticides. Clean Harbors is a nationwide company that has “close to 30 years experience” in hazardous waste management, Arthur said.

Most of the waste, 90 percent, according to ODAFF, is incinerated at facilities in Arkansas and Texas that have incinerators specifically designed to accommodate hazardous wastes, Arthur said. Clean Harbors utilizes more than 100 service facilities and 50 waste management facilities, one located in northwestern Oklahoma, Arthur said.

“Clean Harbors is fully insured, has the highest ISO certification for handling hazardous waste, and is fully permitted by the federal and state Transportation Departments for the transport of hazardous waste,” Arthur said.

Clean Harbors assumes “generator status” of all waste generated by the unwanted pesticide disposal. That means Clean Harbors acquires all right and liabilities to the waste brought to the site, which thus makes them responsible “for any spills, contamination, or any other unforeseen problems when dealing with the hazardous waste,” Arthur reported.