House Republicans on Tuesday hammered at Gov. Mark Dayton's executive order aimed at restricting the use of certain pesticides that some scientists have implicated in the decline in pollinators, such as honeybees.

GOP legislators criticized Dayton's August order, a set of broad new guidelines to limit the use of a controversial pesticide containing compounds known as neonicotinoids. Among their chief complaints was the process leading up to Dayton's order, which they said did not include farmers.

"The farmers in my district, and other parts, feel like they are the enemy because the governor is on the offense," said Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, during an informational hearing on the order. 

Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson and some DFL legislators pushed back at Republican criticism that farmers and other agriculture operators were not included in the process. They said the administration invited GOP legislators to a February summit and that more than 400 public comments were received, including some from industry representatives. 

"I can guarantee that (Dayton) has the best economic interest of Minnesota agriculture in the forefront of his mind," Frederickson said.

Under Dayton’s order, farmers and nursery owners who want to use one of the compounds, known as neonicotinoids, will have to prove to the Department of Agriculture that they face “imminent danger of significant crop loss” without them.

Dayton also ordered state agencies to develop “pollinator-friendly” practices for maintaining state-owned properties like office buildings, parks, prisons, landfills and the sprawling grounds of the State Capitol.

Legislators will continue debating the guidelines, partly because some broader measures — like creating new regulations for seeds treated with pesticide coatings — will require the Legislature to sign off.

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