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Idaho Senate rejects bill to limit pesticide lawsuits

FILE - Farmer Dimitris Kakalis, 25, fills a spray machine with pesticide at his vineyard near the town of Tyrnavos, central Greece, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.
Giannis Papanikos
Opponents of SB 1245 said it would prevent people who may be harmed by pesticides from seeking justice in the courts.

The Idaho Senate shot down a bill Thursday that would’ve given more legal protection to pesticide manufacturers.

Bill sponsor Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) said the measure, SB 1245, would protect pesticide companies against disputes over health and safety warnings. He said the labels are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and sufficient for informing consumers.

“These crazy lawsuits that we're hearing about around the country are creating uncertainty for farmers and ranchers, because we're wondering if American made products will continue to be available,” Harris said.

The bill had support from Bayer, the manufacturer of the herbicide Roundup, which has a phosphate plant and mine in eastern Idaho. Bayer paid $10 billion in 2020 to settle claims that Roundup caused cancer, and has been ordered to pay $2.25 billion in a case this year.

But Senators rejected the bill 15-19. Opponents included both Democrats and far-right lawmakers. They said it would prevent people who may be harmed by pesticides from seeking justice in the courts.

Sen. James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) said the legal system is the only venue people have to bring these claims forward.

“That's how the framers felt it should be – that the weak, that the unprivileged, should be able to stand up against the powerful and seek justice, because that's what America is,” he said.

Sen. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) also questioned taking the EPA’s word on safety.

“We've learned with past experiences, especially during COVID, that the experts don't always know what they're talking about,” she said.

Farmworker advocates and environmental groups also opposed the bill.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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