BOSTON — Exterminators, landscapers and others who use pesticides are pushing back against a plan that would require them to register with the state.
The proposal — tacked onto Gov. Charlie Baker’s $170 million, mid-year budget bill — requires companies that use pesticides on farms and lawns or for pest control to register each year with the state Department of Agriculture and pay a yet-to-be-determined fee.
Companies that use pesticides say the plan poses another layer of taxation on an industry that is already heavily regulated.
“This is all about the money,” said Ted Brayton, owner of Griggs & Browne Pest Control in Abington and president of the New England Pest Management Association.
Most pest control companies follow state and federal laws, he said, and shouldn’t have to spend more to fund the state’s enforcement of irresponsible operators.
“They’re going after the wrong people,” he said. “They should be going after the unlicensed operators.”
Karen Connelly, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Lawncare Professionals, said her group also opposes the registration and fee. She said she’s “surprised” the Baker administration tacked the controversial proposal onto a spending bill.
“We hope this proposal will be withdrawn so we can sit down with the state and figure out another way to handle it,” she said.
State law now regulates those who use pesticides — not the companies they work for — and requires them to pay licensing fees from $75 to $750 per year.
Only three inspectors monitor pesticide licenses for the entire state.
If a complaint is made, the pesticide board can refer the case to the attorney general’s office to levy fines or other penalties, such as revoking someone’s license.
Money to enforce pesticide regulations comes from a $400,000 federal grant.
Baker’s supplemental budget could go to a vote by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. If the bill is approved, the Senate could take it up before the end of the week.
Whether the proposed pesticide company registry will make it into the final version of the mid-year spending bill remains unclear. A version of the bill that emerged from the House Ways & Means Committee late Tuesday didn’t include the proposal.
Pesticide companies that supply farmers would also be required to register, and farmers who used unlicensed applicators could be hit with hefty fines.
Ed Davidian, president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, said farmers could be fined for using a company that wasn’t registered to sell a pesticide.
“Our concern is that they could get a little too liberal with the fines,” he said.
Environmentalists say pesticides pollute waterways and soil with toxic chemicals, but the state doesn’t have money or resources to hold companies accountable.
Sarah Little, a former Wellesley public health official and advocate for reducing the use of toxic pesticides, said the state has a poor track record of enforcement.
Charging companies to pay for state inspections would improve enforcement.
“We have a pesticide board that can’t even enforce its own regulations because it’s so underfunded,” she said. “Honestly, where else are they going to get the money?”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for the Times and its sister North of Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.