A state lawmaker who represents the southeast Missouri region where there have been numerous pesticide complaints will pre-file legislation in December to address the issue.

Capitol 5 featState Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville) will introduce a bill in January to increase penalties on those who illegally spray pesticides. The state Department of Agriculture told Rone and other lawmakers on Thursday that MDA is investigating 115 compaints about pesticides in four southeast Missouri counties.

Rone wants to increase the fines on those who illegally spray pesticides from $1,000 to $10,000 per field. He tells Missourinet he’ll ask House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) to fast-track the bill in January.

“Because if we don’t fast-track this, then the growing season down there (southeast Missouri) starts in March and we need to have this already in place, the Governor signed it and make it law before the next planting season which starts in the end of March,” Rone says.

Rone is concerned.

“If we don’t control this type of behavior, then we’re going to lose that chemistry sooner than later,” Rone says. “And pretty soon we’ll have no chemistry that’ll work in a field and then we’ll really have some problems.”

The MDA testified that they’re getting reports of damage to tomatoes, watermelons, peaches and peanuts. There have been seven MDA investigators working in the Bootheel.

Missouri Department of Agriculture Division Director Judy Grundler told lawmakers that the investigations encompass about 40,000 acres and more than 400 fields.