A bill proposing to ban nearly all nonagricultural uses of several neonicotinoid pesticides passed a committee this week.

Farm groups have lined up in opposition to the measure, arguing it undermines the regulatory process and would enable invasive pests to proliferate.

Chris Reardon, vice president of Pest Control Operators of California, defended the Department of Pesticide Regulation as “the definitive pesticide use enforcement department in the country.” Policy advocate Louie Brown, representing several farm groups, said the agency is “great at what they do” and that it found the risk low for nonagricultural uses.

“If you, the Legislature, disagrees with that,” said Brown, “rather than taking the chemistry and taking the science into your hands, let's direct them to go back and do what they're paid to do.”

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Brown commended Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan of Orinda for working with DPR but said CDFA handles invasive pests. The citrus industry, he explained, has spent millions of dollars to educate landowners about treating backyard citrus trees to prevent the spread of the host insect for citrus greening.

Bauer-Kahan responded that while DPR is reevaluating agricultural uses, “they haven’t even started discussing” other uses. She pledged to add more language exempting invasive species in the bill.