Hog poison bill may go belly up in Texas Senate
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
H.B. 3451 passed by a wide margin in the Texas House of Representatives a month ago, but we still don't have a definitive end to the controversy in Texas raging over the hog poison known as Kaput. If anything, the situation may be even more inflamed now than it was back in April.
Frustration among opponents of the poison has simmered over the bill's lack of progress in the Texas Senate, combined with some more controversial statements by Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller that have recently come to light.
Opponents of Kaput were riding high in Texas at the end of April after scoring two major victories.
The first came when the Texas House of Representatives passed H.B. 3451, which would prevent the use of any lethal pesticide for feral hog control until the state completed a field study assessing the agricultural and environmental impacts of the poison, by an overwhelming margin. Then, Scimetrics — the owners of the company that produces Kaput — announced their decision to withdraw registration for use of Kaput in Texas.
However, H.B. 3451 is currently stalled in the Texas Senate. While the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs had a hearing on the bill on May 8, the committee has yet to schedule a vote on it.
Indications are pretty strong that the Senate would approve H.B. 3451 and that Gov. Greg Abbott would sign it into law. However, the bill would need to make it out of committee first, and there is no guarantee that this will happen.
If H.B. 3451 does not pass the Senate and get signed into law before this session of the legislature ends May 29, the bill will die. Opponents of Kaput will then have no legislative means of stopping the use of the poison until the next session of the legislature convenes in January of 2019.
If that were to happen, there would be nothing stopping Scimetrics from reapplying with the Agriculture Commission again in the future and using the poison against hogs in Texas for the next year and a half. So, there is a real sense of urgency from opponents of Kaput right now.
With this in mind, it's not surprising that an embarrassing recording just surfaced of Miller discussing Kaput with Bruce Hunnicutt, the owner of a hog hunting ranch.
Like many hunters and ranchers in Texas, Hunnicutt was concerned about the possible negative effects of Kaput on hunters and scavengers who consume hog meat tainted with warfarin. He met with Miller on March 3 and recorded the conversation with Miller's permission.
In that conversation, Miller brushed off Hunnicutt's concerns about the poison and the fact that the federally mandated label on Kaput warns users of the poison to recover and bury all hogs that consume it. He also appeared to suggest that the rules governing the use of Kaput are unenforceable.
In the recording, which you can listen to here, Hunnicutt says: "That product label right there says 'all animals' ... every one of them has to be recovered and put 18 inches under the ground. How you going to do that? ... How you going to find all of them, Mr. Miller?"
To which Miller replies: "I guess we should take that off the label, it's not doable. We'll take it off."
When the Environmental Protection Agency approved Kaput for use earlier this year, one of the stipulations of that approval was for Scimetrics to include those restrictions on the label and for users of the poison to abide by them. Altering the label is potentially a violation of federal law. While it is possible for a state agricultural department to request edits to the label from the EPA, the state cannot unilaterally make changes to the label, as Miller appeared to suggest.
Nobody really knows what the future holds for H.B. 3451 or Kaput in the state of Texas. While this recording of Miller may not sway any members of the Texas Senate, his comments do not look good and are certainly not helping make a case in favor of the poison either.
Only time will tell, though, and we'll probably have to wait all the way until the end of May for a more definitive answer on what will happen with Kaput.
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