A proposal before the Maine Legislature would exempt agricultural pesticides from reporting requirements and a ban on products containing forever chemicals by 2030.

Supporters of the proposal acknowledged during a public hearing Monday that forever chemicals, the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, are a problem but said the farming industry needs more time to figure out solutions.

Opponents raised concerns about pesticides containing PFAS contributing to food contamination and said the current law is reasonable, providing sufficient time for manufacturers to develop alternatives or apply for an exemption.

PFAS are called forever chemicals because they linger in the environment for decades. Even trace amounts of these synthetic chemicals are linked to compromised immune systems, low birth weights and several types of cancer.

The Legislature’s Committee on Environment & Natural Resources heard testimony both for and against L.D. 1960 at a public hearing Monday.

The bill, which is sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would create an exemption in the current law that requires manufacturers of products containing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances to disclose the use of the chemicals to the state starting in 2025 and that bans the sale of products containing PFAS by 2030, unless their use is deemed unavoidable.


The exemption would be for “agricultural products,” including pesticides and herbicides used in agricultural production that are regulated by the federal government.

“The intent behind this bill is to give Maine agricultural producers an even playing field as they compete with other producers throughout the country,” Jackson told the committee.

He said other states don’t have the same restrictions on products used to fight fungus or blight and that limiting the list of products eligible for use by farmers would raise the cost of food production and force farmers to use less effective products.

The bill would add to other exemptions also being considered by Maine lawmakers in L.D. 1537, including veterinary products, fire-fighting foam and prosthetic devices.

Maine is at the forefront of legislation regarding PFAS and last year became the first state to ban sludge recycling and PFAS in nonessential products.



“It’s an issue,” said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. “It’s out there and it’s not just in Maine. We need time during this period to consider the research that’s ongoing as it relates to PFAS and the environment and what we can do to eliminate it. But it all takes time, and during that period we can’t take products away, whether it’s for agriculture, products at Bath Iron Works or whatever. We have to work through it.”

Forever Chemicals Maine

Dairy cows rest outside the home of Fred and Laura Stone at Stoneridge Farm in 2019, in Arundel. The group of chemicals known as PFAS have been found in hundreds of farm sites where sludge containing the toxins was spread.  Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press, file

Flannery said farmers in the state haven’t had a problem with pesticides, which he said are generally used in small amounts, but rather with the application of sludge, which led to PFAS being detected in their soil and wells. And he pointed out that the products in question are already regulated by the federal government and the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

“If we do anything in this state to take products out of our toolbox, that’s not going to make the food on your shelves any different because most of the food on your shelves doesn’t come from the state of Maine, and everybody else, at this point in time, is still using those products,” Flannery said.

Garrett Mason, who testified on behalf of the Maine Farm Bureau, said several farms around the state have been impacted by PFAS, but “it remains a fact that PFAS chemicals are part of what enables modern life and elements of the farming industry.”

“The industry is working towards using more sustainable compounds that are degradable and effective, but for now, agriculture needs consistency and predictability as we move towards that future,” Mason said. “The bill before you would allow this to happen over time and within reason.”



“This bill creates a direct route for PFAS into our bodies,” said Rep. Bill Pluecker, I-Warren. He said the bill would create confusion by targeting pesticides used in food production while leaving pesticides containing PFAS and used for other things subject to the law.

Heather Spalding, deputy director and senior policy director for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal, file

“The most important category of PFAS use to regulate is for products going into our food and bodies,” Pluecker said. “Mainers are relying on the Legislature to ensure that the most severe impacts of PFAS contamination are mitigated.”

Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said the bill’s title is misleading.

“It would not support Maine farmers,” she said. “The rationale for exempting agricultural pesticides from public notice and source reduction provisions of Maine’s PFAS law is unclear and in MOFGA’s view lacks any reasonable policy justification. The current laws are measured and responsive to the concerns of the pesticides industry.”

Spalding said there are at least 55 PFAS chemicals present in about 1,400 pesticides registered for use in Maine.

She said pesticides manufacturers should be able to easily comply with the reporting requirements in the current law. “The current law already provides pesticide manufacturers with significant time to identify new, safer formulations,” she said.

PFAS have been used for decades in household and industrial settings but began attracting widespread public attention and concern in the late 2010’s after it was found that wastewater sludge spread on farms for fertilizer in Maine had caused PFAS chemicals to creep into drinking water supplies. Maine now bans the use of sludge as farm fertilizer.

As the scale of the problem continues to unfold, Maine has continued to identify new examples of just how pervasive the chemicals are in the environment. On Friday, the Bigelow Laboratory and Friends of Casco Bay announced they found widespread levels of PFAS at 18 sites in Casco Bay in 2023.

The groups said the amounts found were not considered alarming but they plan to conduct more research to determine the sources and potential health impacts.

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