Governor Eric Greitens signed into law bipartisan legislation increasing the penalties for illegal use of herbicides Friday in the southeast Missouri community of Portageville.

courtesy Gov. Greiten's office

Gov. Greitens signs pesticide legislation into law, surrounded by Southeast Missouri farmers and legislators.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been investigating pesticide complaints from five southeast Missouri counties and from northwest Missouri’s Carroll County.

Governor Greitens spoke to Missourinet Friday afternoon from Portageville, where he signed the bill.

“I talked to a group of farmers this morning, and they told me how the illegal use of pesticides had destroyed their crops, hurt their livelihoods and really started tearing apart communities,” Greitens says. “It was critical that we get this done today.”

Listen to Greitens’ interview with Missourinet News Director Brian Hauswirth (3:09):

The Missouri House passed the bill 143-12 with an emergency clause, which means the law takes effect immediately. The bill authorizes MDA to issue a $10,000 penalty per violation. Chronic violators can now be fined up to $25,000 per violation.

Governor Greitens says those provisions have teeth in them, adding that we must “have the backs” of Missouri farmers.

“You know, we have guys who are out there doing the right thing every day, trying to support themselves, support their families, serve their community, and they deserve a government that’s going to have their back,” says Greitens.  The state Department of Agriculture will investigate complaints under the new law, with the power to subpoena witnesses and require records of a person’s application of any herbicide.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s division director testified in November that MDA’s investigation into 124 pesticide complaints had cost taxpayers $177,000.

Greitens signed State Rep. Don Rone’s (R-Portageville) dicamba bill, which says any fine will go to the school district “in which the violation occurred.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), State Rep. Steve Cookson (R-Poplar Bluff), State Rep. Tila Hubrecht (R-Dexter) and and State Sen. Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) attended the bill-signing ceremony as well. It took place at Rone Hall, which is at the Delta Center.