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Forum editorial: Chemical program is sound

Some members of the North Dakota Legislature are letting political pettiness fog good judgment. They are going after a farm chemical disposal program that has been very successful since its inception in 1992.

Some members of the North Dakota Legislature are letting political pettiness fog good judgment. They are going after a farm chemical disposal program that has been very successful since its inception in 1992.

Project Safe Send has enjoyed the enthusiastic support of farmers, pesticide dealers, farm organizations, environmental groups and the major chemical companies. The program has been funded from the start by a small assessment attached to pesticide registration fees. No general fund money is appropriated from the state treasury.

Nevertheless, the program's funding is a legislative function because Safe Send is administered by the state Department of Agriculture. It is part of the state budget process and therefore funding -- whatever its source -- needs legislative approval. But because Project Safe Send is fully funded by fees paid by pesticide manufacturers, cutting the program would not save taxpayers a cent.

Gov. John Hoeven included $619,525 for Safe Send in his budget. The House slashed the amount by $310,655.

So what's going on here?

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It appears Republicans in the House want to gut a program that has been managed well by Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture Roger Johnson. The scuttlebut in the halls of the Capitol is that Republicans want to send him a message because of his support of Measure 3, the failed Youth Investment Initiative. They apparently also are peeved they have been unable to defeat him at the polls.

Political cheap shots have their place. But in this case, harming a proven and useful program to score political points is just plain stupid. And it has been an excellent program.

During Safe Send's lifetime nearly 1.4 million pounds of old pesticides have been located and properly disposed of, usually by incineration. More than 3,730 people involved with farm chemicals have participated. Indeed, just last year the program rounded up nearly 191,000 pounds of pesticides, the highest yearly total since the effort began. That's up 25 percent from the previous year. Any effort to "sunset" the program (one justification for the funding cut) makes no sense in light of the large amounts of chemicals being found and destroyed each year.

The program has been managed well by Johnson's ag department. It retains strong support from nearly every interest involved with the proper applications and disposal of farm pesticides. The exception appears to be a few legislators who seem more interested in partisan gamesmanship than in clearing the land and waterways of potentially dangerous chemicals.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board

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