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Pesticide Drift on Organic Farms in Minnesota


By Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension

Protect your Farm from drift

List your farm on DriftWatch so that applicators know to avoid spraying near your farm. It is also a good idea to plant buffers around your farm to create a physical barrier for spray droplets.

If you are exposed to pesticide drift

  • If you suspect that you’ve been personally drifted on, consider seeking immediate medical attention. Take a long shower (30 minutes) as soon as possible, and use plenty of soap. Put your unwashed clothing in a plastic bag and freeze it separately from food to prevent cross contamination; your clothing could be used as evidence in a drift complaint. 
  • If you choose to file a complaint, contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) immediately or as soon as you able. Most pesticides degrade quickly in the environment, so act quickly to improve the likelihood that your Agricultural Chemical Inspector (ACI) can determine a pesticide or fertilizer violation of the law. 
  • Contact your certifying agency. They will come and test for residues to determine the extent of damage and whether you will be able to sell your produce as organic.

If I’m drifted on, how will it affect my organic certification? 

The impacts of pesticide drift on certification and your ability to sell your products will depend on the concentration of residues present. Your organic certifying agency will need to test your fields to determine whether your produce will be safe to sell, and whether it can be sold as organic. In extreme cases, the certifying agency may conclude that you will not be able to sell produce as organic in the following years.

Making a successful drift complaint to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture

  1. If you want to make a pesticide complaint, do so immediately. Prompt reporting allows the MDA to respond quickly and gather the best evidence to determine what happened. 
  2. Take good notes. Try to document as many of the following factors as possible: Timing of application, date, temperature, wind speed and direction (keep documenting temperature and wind changes for a couple of days following the exposure event to account for pesticide volatilization.  
  3. The boom height or the approximate height of the plane, and any additional details such as speed of the vehicle, tail number, etc. In most cases, the ACI who does the inspection will collect this info from the applicator/responsible party. 
  4. Try to find out the chemical that was sprayed (product trade name) and the  applicator/responsible party. 
  5. Document the first day that you see damage to your crops; take high resolution photos to record the symptomology.
  6. Have your certifying agency estimate the economic loss (net) you will incur if they determine you are unable to sell your crops as certified organic as a result of pesticide drift. 
  7. All complaints to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture must be put in writing within 45 days of the alleged misapplication. Complaints can be filed here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/chemicals/pesticides/complaints/nondicambamisuse.aspx
  8. If you would like to discuss your complaint, you can call the Pesticide Misuse Complaint line at 651-201-6333 (Monday - Friday 8am-4pm). If you are calling after hours, you may contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798. 
  9. After submitting your formal complaint, you will be contacted by an Agricultural Chemical Inspector from MDA to discuss next steps. 

Compensation for drift

If you choose to pursue a lawsuit, be aware that this is a separate process from the MDA drift complaint process. If MDA finds evidence of a violation of the law, public records of the violation could be used as evidence once the investigation is closed, but MDA will not represent you in civil court. Work with your crop consultant or organic certifying agency to collect the following evidence:

  • Demonstrate that the damage was caused by a pesticide
  • Establish the source of the drift
  • Establish the amount of net loss caused by the damage

Beekeepers may be compensated for bee kills related to drift: In order to be compensated, you must have your hives registered on BeeCheck (Part of DriftWatch). Compensation comes from funds allocated by the Minnesota Legislature in the Compensation for acute pesticide poisoning of bees law. If you find ≥100 dead bees in/around a hive per frame of live bees, an ACI can usually collect samples as evidence for pesticide residue analysis.
Find more information on bee kill compensation and eligibility criteria for compensation at: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/bmps/pollinators/beekillcompensation.aspx

References

“Documentation for suspected herbicide drift damage” Alan G. Dexter, North Dakota State University Extension
“Regulation, Inspection, & Enforcement” Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Ag Chemicals & Fertilizers
“Watch out for: Pesticide drift and organic production”. Elizabeth Maynard, Bryan Overstreet, & Jim Riddle, Purdue Extension
“Pesticide Drift”: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/chemicals/pesticides/complaints/~/media/Files/chemicals/pesticides/pesticidedrift.pdf


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