"I have 1,450 acres on 11 farms," Chip Councell, a Talbot County farmer, said in testimony last week at a Senate committee hearing. "To compile this into a format I'd have to put data loggers on five pieces of equipment at a cost of between $100,000 and $125,000. Every day I spend time at my desk is a day I am not taking care of my crops."
But other farmers, such as Holly Budd of Holly's Garden in Sunderland, Md., said reporting would benefit farmers by helping to identify harmful pesticides. Jenny Levin of Maryland PIRG, a consumer rights group, called the proposal "a right to know bill" that discloses the use of poisonous chemicals.
Three million people drink from the Potomac, where intersex fish have been found. Maryland would become the fourth state to adopt more stringent reporting rules if a law passes.
California has required its growers to report insecticide and herbicide use since 1990, producing so much data that the state struggles to process it. "This is used by government agencies, environmental groups, researchers, public health officials," said Larry Wilhoit, a research scientist for the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation.
New York started a program in 1996 but hasn't completed an annual usage report since 2005, amid disputes over the validity of the data, according to a report from the Maryland Agriculture Department. Oregon's program, started in 1999, was idled 1o years later when funding was stripped by budget cuts.
Maryland reporting is important because the state sits on the nation's largest estuary, a stunningly beautiful nursery for a wide variety of marine life, and a drinking source for millions of people in several states and the District.
But the bay's beauty is skin deep, said Blazer, the USGS biologist. It is beset by farms with huge pesticide loads and urban areas that send storm water overflows full of human waste and pharmaceutical products cascading into its tributaries.