Some state lawmakers in Washington have proposed banning most uses of chlorpyrifos, a broad-spectrum organophosphate used in the tree fruit industry and many other crops.

Senate Bill 6518, proposed by Sen. Christine Rolfes, a Kitsap County Democrat, would prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos, marketed as Lorsban, without exemptions.

The proposed ban, introduced on Jan. 20, is scheduled for a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks. The Washington State Tree Fruit Association, a Yakima, Washington, nonprofit that lobbies in Olympia, has encouraged growers to contact legislators with concerns.

Citing concerns over children’s neurological development and environmental damage, several states have already banned the chemical, while the federal Environmental Protection Agency for years has been mulling whether to prohibit its use. Eight states, including Washington, have filed a federal lawsuit asking the EPA to ban it.

Entomologists say tree fruit growers in Washington rarely use the chemical but want to keep it in their toolbelt as a backup plan in case softer control methods fail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists tree fruit, including trunk sprays, as a Tier I critical use for chlorpyrifos.

Under the proposed prohibition before Washington state lawmakers, growers could seek an exemption through a temporary emergency permit until 2025, if they prove there are no alternatives. The temporary permit would still forbid aerial spraying when wind is more than 3 miles per hour, require a 250-foot buffer zone and mandate a 48-hour warning for neighbors and applicators’ families.

—by Ross Courtney

Growers tracking chemical controversies measure for measure