At this point, sympathy is not needed. Instead, we need people to take some time to read/listen and understand. We need you to get informed enough so that some change can happen because living in Iowa is not supposed to be equivalent to living in fear that someone will spray you with chemicals and then fly away.
It seems unfair on the surface. We didn't do the spraying, yet we lose organic certification on the fields that were hit for three years from the point of the spray incident.
But, this is why I signed up for organic certification. It should mean something. Just because I didn't MEAN for it to be sprayed doesn't make the fact that it WAS sprayed change. Things grown in that field simply cannot meet organic certification levels. Period.
We believe in organic certification. We abide by the rules because we think they are right. If we don't report because we fear the loss of certification, we undermine what the whole process stands for. Then it will mean nothing.
In the end, we are content that loss of certification for three years is correct and as it should be. This does not imply that we are ok with the event that caused the loss in the first place (of course).
This is one of the things that upsets us the most. The chemicals sprayed on these crops were not intended for the food crops we were growing - especially not at the time the spraying occurred. These chemicals were not intended for human consumption. Some of the numbers that came back from the lab from samples collected 3 days after the event were easily 10 times maximum levels allowed for conventionally grown veg. Others more, some less.
One chemical is systemic, which means the plant will absorb it and it will continue to be in the plants system for some time after the event. If none were systemic, it might have been a simple matter of "soaking the area down" and removing all fruit that were on the plants at the time of the spraying. That would still be a big hit.
We pride ourselves in growing safe, quality food for our use and your use. This food is not safe. None of us will eat it. We will not feed it to our birds. We will place it in the compost pile that was sprayed and encourage Mother Nature to break it down for us.
So, the reality is this. All food crops that were scheduled to be harvested from our Southwest field and the high tunnel tested with high levels of these chemicals. They will all be removed, along with all plant vegetation. We'll till the fields, put cover crop in some and probably put something new in the high tunnel after we run overhead watering over bare soil for a period of time.
Our understanding at this time is that the FAA grants a great deal of leeway (exemptions) for crop dusters. About all they can or do enforce is that they should always maintain the ability to crash land safely. They HAVE however, taken interest in the fact that Rob was physically hit with spray.
It is our belief that the FAA may need to revise these rules for crop dusters since it is becoming apparent that they cannot handle these exemptions responsibly or safely.
Lab Report Results
We were able to talk with someone at the lab to help us interpret the results. The lab (without prompting) indicated that we must have been hit directly to have levels as high as the readings given. Remember - these were samples that were taken three days later. They agreed that we should give up the crops that were existing at the time of the spraying. They also agreed that we could consider Fall and Winter crops in the high tunnel with no concerns about the food's safety.
What are we doing with respect to our claim?
We will give much less detail here until we know better what our strategy will be from our legal representative. Suffice it to say, we have identified the lawyer we feel comfortable with. The first step is likely a 'pre-demand' letter to let the parties involved know that we incurred a loss and that we intend to file a claim for damages.
What are we doing with respect to social and policy change?
We are trying to formulate some coherent idea as to what we think could or should be changed so that what happened to us (and to others who have told us their stories) doesn't happen again.
this is where you can help.
First step - help us by discussing policy changes that are
1.effective changes to reach our goal
2. passable in a state where it is unlikely that the use of chemicals for commodity crops will be banned. We understand the feeling of wanting to just get rid of them, but we have to admit that an all or nothing approach will likely result in nothing - which is not acceptable.
3. reasonably encapsulated for clarity and understanding so that public support can be won.
Here are our starting points
1. Fields that are to be sprayed that abut a property where someone other than the farmer responsible for the spraying lives will require a spraying setback. That setback will be larger for aerial spraying.
2. The owner of any registered adjacent property with a listing of any sort in the sensitive crops directory must be contacted 24 hours prior to the spraying event, whether it is ground or aerial. A list of the chemicals to be applied and their rates and application method must be given.
3. The sensitive crops directory should be expanded to include food crop designations, spray free pasture designations, designations for pastured poultry or other livestock and perhaps other agricultural endeavors that I am not currently thinking of.
4. All aerial sprayers must be equipped with a GPS system that records exactly where chemicals were dropped. These records should probably be filed either with the Pesticide Bureau or some other public body and made accessible to interested persons (usually bordering property owners).
5. The owner of the property to be sprayed or their representative should be on site at the time of the application of the chemicals.
6. Those responsible for the application of the chemicals must be aware of all use label precautions and be held responsible for any application that fails to follow the use label recommendations.
This is a starting point. We are working on more detail, but invite discussion here.