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Spraying the wrong yard

Published (3/7/2008)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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If pesticides are accidentally applied to the wrong site, currently there is little regulatory consequence.

That would change under HF2573, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul).

Hansen told the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee March 5 that he knows of incidents where lawn chemical applicators have sprayed the wrong yard.

The bill would make it a violation to apply a pesticide to a site where an application has not been requested, ordered or contracted for by the property owner or manager of the site.

Approved by the committee, it now awaits action by the full House. The Senate companion, SF2449, sponsored by Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport), awaits action in the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Committee.

Trying to ease concerns of rural legislators, Hansen said, “I want to be clear that I am not referring to drift.” He explained that drift is when the wind carries the chemical to another’s property. In rural areas applicators have access to maps clearly showing fields where they are contracted to apply the chemicals.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Wabasha) said that in rural areas, misapplication generally comes from a communication breakdown.

Paul Liemandt, Department of Agriculture assistant director, said state law is specific about chemical application, but that Hansen’s concerns are not fully addressed.

But Drazkowski questioned the department’s role in enforcement: “Is it the role of the department to be looking at what is a contract between a business and an individual?” Additionally he wanted to know the penalty to the applicator.

Hansen said it could start with an advisory letter, but if a pattern of abuse is established, then a monetary, or even a criminal, penalty could be applied.

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