A new bill that could save hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in Arizona is drawing fire from the state’s farmers and ranchers.
State Senator John Chisholm is pushing legislation to make it legal to use agribusiness chemicals in the fields and to make the chemicals used on the crops eligible for a special tax break, but critics say the bill goes too far.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Republican from the southwest Arizona town of Scottsdale, has been under review by the Senate Agriculture Committee, which has yet to take up the bill.
A coalition of agriculture and environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Tucson Zoo and Aquarium have sent a letter to Chishal asking him to reconsider.
“It is our view that the bill will be misused by the agriculture industry to deny farmers and their ranchers the tax benefits that would make agribusculture a viable, sustainable and fair economic activity,” the letter said.
“If the bill passes, farmers and other ranchers will suffer, because the bills intended to protect and restore the environment are being used to attack agribuses livelihood.”
Environmentalists are pushing for more transparency in how chemicals are used in agriculture.
The bill is still being reviewed by the Agriculture Committee.
If approved by the full Senate, the bill would make the state the fourth in the nation to allow farmers and small-scale farmers to use agricultural chemicals in crop fields.
It would allow farmers to apply for a tax break to use herbicides on crops they produce.
But it would also allow for a 12 percent tax credit on any chemical used on a crop that has been grown for less than 10 years.
Critics of the bill say it will be used to promote the use of chemical herbicides in farming.
They say it creates a loophole in state law that allows for a $200 tax credit for any herbicide used on an agricultural crop.
“They’re trying to make agriculture as toxic as possible, which is completely wrong,” said Dan Wertheim, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.
The tax break has long been criticized as a way to allow big agribustan agribushrooms to escape their liability for using chemical herbicide.