Governor Hochul Signs First-in-the-Nation Bill to Limit Neonic Pesticides

This article originally appeared at NRDC.org.

A coalition of farmers, health professionals, and environmental groups are celebrating today after Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Birds and Bees Protection Act (S1856-A/A7640). The bill will limit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), and, when fully implemented, would eliminate up to 80-90% of the neonics entering New York’s environment annually by prohibiting only unneeded neonic coatings on corn, soybean, and wheat seeds and non-agricultural lawn and garden uses.

“By signing the Birds and Bees Protection Act Governor Hochul is protecting human and ecosystem health and supporting the viability of the thousands of NY farms that rely on native and honey bee populations to pollinate their crops each year,” said Katie Baildon, Policy Manager for NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY). “By restricting wasteful neonic use, NY is protecting not only pollinators but also insect predators that farmers count on for natural pest control and soil microbial life critical for capturing carbon and nutrient cycling. NOFA-NY is celebrating this important win that will significantly curb contamination of our environment, our bodies and the entire NY food system.”  

The Birds and Bees Protection Act is the first in the nation to address the largest and most widespread neonic use – neonic coatings on corn and soybean seeds, which an extensive state-commissioned reportongoing statewide field research, and real world experience show provide no economic benefits to farmers. The bill’s legislative passage sparked a chemical industry campaign to pressure the Governor to veto the bill through lobbying and misinformation. The final agreed upon version of the bill comes after long negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will now be charged with promulgating a waiver program from the prohibitions on neonic seed coatings, which take effect in 2029. This marks a significant improvement over the current status quo, in which the agency exercises no regulatory authority over neonic seed coatings. Experience in jurisdictions like Quebec, which has successfully administered such a program since 2019, show that these programs are effective in drastically reducing the use of neonic seed coatings, while preserving flexibility for farmers.

The Birds & Bees Protection Act was championed by sponsors Assemblymember Glick and Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and passed the legislature in June with their leadership and that of Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, Assemblymember Solages, and Senator Harckham. Support for the Birds & Bees Protection Act is widespread with over 370 New York farms, businesses, and organizations having called for the bill’s passage. New York State health professionalsreligious leadersbrewers, and chefs have also called on the Governor to sign the bill. The Buffalo NewsThe Times Union, and Newsday have editorialized in favor of the bill. 

Long connected to mass losses of bees critical to New York’s agricultural economy and environment, neonics have emerged as the most ecologically destructive pesticides since DDT. In May, the U.S. EPA made the unprecedented finding that neonics are driving 200+ species toward extinction, and the pesticides have been linked with mass losses of birds, the collapse of aquatic ecosystems, and birth defects in deer. The pesticides extensively pollute New York water supplies and New Yorkers’ bodies, with recent research documenting near-ubiquitous and steadily rising levels of neonics in NYS pregnant women.