New Jersey is now a national leader in protecting pollinators, other wildlife, and people from the risks and effects of widespread neonic contamination.

Governor Phil Murphy recently signed into law bill A2070/S1016, which prohibits nearly all outdoor, non-agricultural uses of neonicotinoid pesticides — the largest source of neonic contamination in New Jersey’s environment.  It’s anticipated that this bill bans about 70% of the neonic uses that ultimately pollute New Jersey’s soil, water, plant life, wildlife and people.

Neonics are a leading cause of the disappearance of bees nationwide. About 15 years ago, beekeepers saw annual colony losses skyrocket from about 10-15% annually to upwards of 30% annually. In New Jersey, beekeepers are losing about 40-50% of their colonies each year. This concerning new normal threatens upwards of $180 million in the state’s pollinator-dependent crops -— including apples, blueberries, cherries and more. In fact, bee and pollinator losses are likely already limiting crop production. Rutgers University research finds that many of these crops are “pollinator-limited,” meaning a lack of pollinators limits production.

In New Jersey, neonics frequently show up in state surface-water testing at levels that are likely to harm aquatic life. Neonics hollow out ecosystems by eradicating aquatic insect populations that birds, fish, amphibians, and other animals depend upon for food. Diminishing trout and wild bird populations, in turn, threaten New Jersey’s tourism and recreation industries.

The bill is certainly good news for New Jersey’s bees, birds, and other wildlife. But it also benefits the state’s mostly pollinator-dependent farmers, and all residents that value clean water and a healthy environment.

A2070/S1016 also allows the state Department of Environmental Protection broad and flexible authority to permit certified applicators to use neonics to control invasive pests like the emerald ash borer and spotted lanternfly. The proposal targets neonic uses that provide no benefits or are easily replaceable.