Before you spray, brush up on legal responsibilities (Ag Law)
(Writer’s note: Editor’s Note: Megan Todd is a Research Assistant with the Agriculture Law Education Initiative, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney and should not be viewed as legal advice.)
As another planting season rolls in, many growers are also making plans for the use and application of pesticides.
Pesticide sales, use, and appli-cations are regulated at the federal and state levels and producers should educate themselves about the rules regarding applicator certification and licensing in their states.
In addition to ensuring you have the proper certifications (or your applicator is properly licensed), growers should also take measures to address two main areas of concern surrounding pesticide use: Complying with the Worker Protection Standard and potential liability due to pesticide drift.
This article will give a brief overview of these two issues and reference additional resources for producers to learn more about how to take appropriate actions.
Worker Protection Standards
The WPS is a Federal regulation administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Worker Protection Standards were first adopted in 1992 for the purpose of protecting workers on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouse operations from the risk of poisoning or injury due to exposure to pesticides used in the production of crops on agricultural operations.
In 2015, WPS was amended with additional standards to protect agricultural workers and handlers and their families.
Farmers should check each pesticide used for the WPS label, which will list “Agricultural Use Requirements” and the directions for use.
A farmer’s responsibilities under WPS will differ between a worker and a handler.
Generally, the duties of farm employers fall into three categories: inform, protect, and mitigate.
A few examples of required actions from each category include:
• Inform: Provide annual pesticide safety training for farm workers and pesticide handlers, in a language they can understand, conducted by a qualified trainer or certified pesticide applicator; Let workers know when and where pesticides are applied and inform them of the Restricted Entry Interval.
• Protect: Ensure all label requirements are followed, and that only workers trained as pesticide handlers use and clean the pesticide application equipment; Provide and maintain any required personal protective equipment.
• Mitigate: Keep routine decontamination supplies on hand, like soap, water and single-use towels.
A recent joint publication from the Agriculture Law Education Initiative and University of Maryland Extension, “What Farmers Need to Know About the Worker Protection Standard,” provides a more detailed overview of the basic responsibilities farmers have when using pesticides with the WPS label.
The publication can be accessed on the ALEI website (umaglaw.org).
To fully comply with the WPS, farmers will need to refer to the “How to Comply” manual and other training materials from the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative available at www.pesticideresources.org.
Pesticide Drift and FieldWatch
Another issue farmers should be aware of is pesticide drift.
Pesticide drift, as defined by the EPA, is “the movement of pesticide dust or droplets through the air at the time of application or soon after, to any site other than the area intended,” which could potentially damage another grower’s crops in nearby adjacent fields or a neighbor’s home garden.
Although there is no legal precedent in Maryland determining an applicator’s liability for such damages, a publication on the ALEI website (umaglaw.org), “Current Legal Rules Benefit Spray Applicators When It Comes to Pesticide Drift,” lays out the potential liability and penalties farmers could face for causing such property damage.
One step every applicator should take prior to spraying in order to avoid damaging crops through pesticide drift is to refer to the free online tracking tool FieldWatch.
Last year Maryland Department of Agriculture Pesticide Regulation Section implemented an agreement with FieldWatch to replace the sensitive crop registry.
Delaware’s Department of Agriculture also uses FieldWatch mapping to help commercial pesticide applicators know where registered beehives and specialty crops are located so they can take measures to reduce and prevent pesticide drift.
Nineteen other states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, also encourage producers to use the FieldWatch registry.
FieldWatch was created by Purdue University and other agricultural stakeholders to provide real-time mapping and communication between pesticide applicators and growers of sensitive crops — like certified organic crops, vineyards, nursery crops — and beekeepers.
Applicators can register on FieldCheck so they can access maps showing where specialty crops are grown and receive notifications when new apiary sites or specialty crop fields are approved in the area.
Applicators can also elect to notify nearby registrants of planned pesticide applications.
Producers of sensitive crops and apiaries should also remember to register their locations on FieldWatch every year to make sure applicators are aware of their operations.
To register, go to FieldWatch.com and choose the type of account you would like to create. Beekeepers should register for BeeCheck, specialty crop growers should register for DriftWatch, and applicators should register for FieldCheck.
For more information about FieldWatch, read this helpful resource.
Maryland growers can contact MDA Pesticide Regulation Section at 410-841-5710; Delaware growers can call DDA Pesticide Administrator at 302-698-4570.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925