Protect Rural Air, Water, and Biodiversity


Policies for a healthy rural environment are critical not just for rural residents but also to protect the natural resources on which everyone depends: clean water and air, healthy soil, and thriving biodiversity are important for all of us, and these start in rural areas. However, rural communities all too often depend on polluting industries, from mining to industrial agriculture, that use chemical inputs or leave toxic outputs that pollute water and air.

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State Policy Priorities

  • Protect pollinators by incentivizing pollinator habitat.
  • Ban neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos (including in seed treatments) and other dangerous pesticides and insecticides that are particularly harmful to pollinators[7] and young children.[8]
  • Protect rural residents from exposure to pesticide and herbicide drift and
  • Ban winter application of manure.
  • Ban hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a practice that threatens farmland and groundwater.
  • Incentivize healthy cycling of nutrients in fields to prevent agricultural runoff.
  • Promote agriculture tourism, activities that provide added value to farmers and landowners in rural areas.[9]
  • Regulate the use of PFAS in industrial processes and sale of goods containing PFAS.
  • Set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFAS in drinking water.
  • Direct funds for increased testing and environmental remediation of PFAS contamination.

[7] Aratani, Lauren. “Pesticide Widely Used in US Particularly Harmful to Bees, Study Finds.” The Guardian, 6 Aug. 2019,

[8] Beyond Pesticides. “Maryland Legislature Passes Limited Ban on Chlorpyrifos Insecticide.” Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog, 24 Mar. 2020,

[9] National Agricultural Law Center. States’ Agritourism Statutes. 14 Oct. 2021,

State Examples

  • Washington (HB 2478-2016) Requires all state agencies give preference to replacing pollen-rich or nectar-rich noxious weeds with native forage plants that are beneficial to honeybees and other pollinators.
  • Several states, including New York (NY 2021 S 7400), have worked on pollinator protection bills, with various aspects of the bill aimed at improving the well-being of honey bees and other critical pollinators. Illinois (2021 IL HB 3357) is considering amending the state’s Bees and Apiaries Act to prohibit a commercial applicator from spraying pesticides toxic to bees on blooming crops when the pesticide application is within one mile of a registered apiary.
  • Nebraska (NE 2021 LB507) considered a bill to prohibit neonicotinoid-treated seeds in ethanol production.
  • Four states have restricted the use of chlorpyrifos, with Maryland (2020 MD 300) being the most recent. In 2018, Hawaii (2018 HI SB 3095) was the first state to prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos.
  • Several states have banned the winter application or spreading of manure on frozen ground. Many states have done this through rulemaking; however, Michigan (2019 MI SB 247) attempted to prohibit the practice through legislation.
  • States including Maryland (2017 MD HB 1325), New York (NY 2019 S 6906). and Vermont have banned hydraulic fracturing, a practice also known as fracking. New York (NY 2019 S 3392) closed the fracking waste loophole by classifying it as hazardous waste.
  • Several states, like Pennsylvania (2021 PA HB 101), have revisited their agritourism laws to shield farmers from liability during agritourism activities. Agritourism helps promote local farms and ranches, while providing value-added income to farmers and ranchers.
  • Maine recently enacted bills to appropriate funds for soil and groundwater PFAS testing (2021 ME LD 1600) and to set maximum PFAS contaminant levels in community water systems, and outlining ongoing water monitoring (2021 ME LD 129).
  • Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would appropriate funds for a PFAS reduction plan and increased testing (2021 MN SF 1410), creating a PFAS reduction task force to investigate environmental contamination (2021 MN SF 69), and prohibiting the use of PFAS substances in packaging produced and sold in the state (2021 MN SF 373).
  • Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team[10] recently promulgated new rules outlining strict PFAS limits in drinking water.
  • Many states that have enacted legislation to address soil health choose to address nutrient runoff by incentivizing producers to enhance nutrient cycling on their operations. See the below section Support Farmers and Ranchers Using Responsible, Climate-Friendly Land Practices for examples of bills.
[10] Michigan PFAS Action Response Team. “Executive Order 2019-03.” Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy,,9038,7-365-86513_95425—,00.html.


Inspired? Ready to dig in on these issues with your rural neighbors? Our practical communications toolkits will help you connect with new communities through common values. The toolkits provide examples on narrative framing, press release templates, sample talking points, and more. 

Click here for the communications toolkit on Promoting Environmental Stewardship.

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