Crop dusting must be controlled

September 03, 2007
Dave Uphoff
The sky over the Minonk area this summer was filled with dive bombing air planes spreading insecticide over the corn and bean fields. One fine Sunday afternoon in July I was outside when all of a sudden I heard the roar of an airplane approaching our home in the country. Soon the plane swooped over the buildings and dumped its spray of insecticide over the adjoining corn field. Immediately I could smell the acrid odor of the insecticide and went in the house and told Judy to close all the windows.

After seeking shelter inside for half and hour Judy went outside to take her wash off the clothes line and found the sheets were covered with a light yellow film from the insecticide spray. She took the clothes inside and rewashed them. We both thought if this is what the insecticide does to the wash on the clothes line what did it do to our lungs and other vital parts of our body?

Needless to say, we were both upset to have our beautiful Sunday afternoon interrupted by the invading crop duster. Yet, what recourse do we have to protect ourselves from such an invasion? Why weren't we warned that crop spraying was to be conducted near out place so we could at least take measures to be somewhere else to avoid inhaling the insecticide in addition to refraining from hanging out the wash? Doesn't our place deserve some sanctuary from this poison? Who knows how far the drift of the spray goes?

Many of you know that I did videotape the second invasion of our home with a crop duster. I knew that I was exposing myself to the risk of exposure but I had already been exposed a few weeks earlier and felt that another dose is not going to make much of a difference. In addition, I wanted to show how close those planes come to our property.

We are not alone in being exposed to the hazards of crop dusting. Anyone who lives anywhere near a crop field is exposed to the insecticide spray. While I have no statistics which show the effects of crop dusting has on those who are exposed to its chemicals, common sense suggests that it is not good for your health. I and many others I have talked to maintain that there is a higher incidence of cancer in the Minonk area and probably most rural areas. Some think it is the Minonk water. Others feel that it is the use of pesticides and herbicides on the corn and bean fields surrounding Minonk.

A study from the Center for Disease Control on the incidence of cancer in 2003 shows that the rate per 100,000 people was 542 for the United States, for the Midwest the rate was 550, and the rate for Illinois was 568 per 100,000. To extrapolate an incidence rate for the Minonk area, which has a population of 2250, the incidences of cancer should be about 11 and the number of deaths each year should be between 4 and 5. I don't have figures on the number of people in Minonk afflicted with cancer but my hunch is the rates are much higher.

If the government is going to protect citizens from second hand smoke by banning smoking in public places why does it not have similar controls for the application of chemicals and sprays? Should not a person at least be warned of the impending crop dusting so plans can be made to take cover or escape to somewhere else until the insecticide settles? Unfortunately, rural populations do not have much political pull. However, if they were to crop dust the streets of Chicago you can bet it wouldn't last very long.

Eventually, pests become more resistant to the insecticides being used which results in an increase in the dosage or strength of the insecticide. Sooner or later there has to be a limit on how much chemicals are to be used in the raising of our crops. Farmers profits are being squeezed ever more with the increase in the use and cost of chemicals. The solution to this problem is to come up with genetically modified seed that is disease resistant or to use organic methods of control or a combination of both.

Whatever the solution to the pest control problem, limits must be put on the free wheeling crop dusters who are having a ball performing aerobatics over our corn fields like Eddie Rickenbacker in World War I. The price we pay for their air show is our health.

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                                                             Viewer comments on this editorial

Rutland Res to MinonkRes wrote on 9/7/2007 at 15:25:37

No one disputes the water in Rutland tastes bad. We drink bottled. Our animals have been drinking the water for YEARS and had not EVER died! Further, the animals DID die within 24 HOURS of fungicide spraying, as evidence of it was yellow dust all over the doghouses and their fur. The Vet said that the nursing dog “may” have had a lower immune system that could not fight the poison, and that “maybe” two of the other dogs were between ages 8 and 10 had lowered immunities also, but the horses getting sick and the chickens dying had no excuse other than the fact that they had been directly exposed to the poison! And NO, the families who live next to the field were NOT notified that the cropduster would be out that day. I'm sure if they had known, they would have put their animals in the barns, as it was a very traumatic experience for their children to find. What a horrific way to die, whether animal or not. Wouldn’t surprise me that exposed humans are poisoned either.

National Agricultural Aviation Association wrote on 9/6/2007 at 09:15:42

Without aerial application we would not be able to produce such a safe, affordable and abundant supply of food, fiber and bio-fuel for the nation and the world. Aerial is the ideal method of application. It can treat the crop much faster and it does not disturb the crop or the topsoil. This spring a nationwide notice was sent to local papers and radio stations throughout the country informing of anticipated activity in the Corn Belt. Aerial applicators are highly skilled pilots and are licensed by the FAA and State Pesticide Enforcement Agencies. Aerial applicators do many things to mitigate drift. These include: determining wind velocity and direction at the job site by using GPS, on board meteorological devices or other technology available; flying at an altitude that minimizes off-target movement of products; ensuring that spray system components are properly calibrated; and determining a variety of other factors to produce the best performance and drift minimization.

Not Wondering wrote on 9/6/2007 at 09:19:01

To wondering, it's 2 gallons of WATER per acre, not chemical. There are only a few ounces of chemical PER ACRE. Until you get your facts straight, any attempt to discuss the rest of this with you is futile.

Farmer wrote on 9/6/2007 at 06:17:13

Last I knew farmers drive tractors not fly planes, I would imagine like any other service the farmer calls the service provider and orders the service then when the provider can spray he sprays, I would bet most farmers do not know what field is going to be sprayed until right before

wondering wrote on 9/6/2007 at 06:59:02

In response to woodford, yes, it is ONLY 2 gallons undiluted per acre, but because it is diluted, is it safer? And, yes, the product being sprayed on our lawns and golf courses is also bad, but the difference is that they are spraying on the ground-not over our heads!! Unless we lay on the ground, we are less likely to inhale the spray. And to "realistic", if the studies are true and there is a correlation between the chemicals sprayed into the air and the incidence of cancer, then compare your $8 for cereal to the cost of cancer treatments.

minonkRes wrote on 9/6/2007 at 03:08:18

animals in rutland?? the drinking water in rutland has to be far worse than any chemicals

Minonker wrote on 9/5/2007 at 18:55:32

"edumacted" ?

woodford wrote on 9/5/2007 at 18:06:15

Does anyone have any idea how many gallons per acre a typical crop duster is putting on----2 gallons. That is correct only 2 gallons. Also the fungicide rate used most is only 6 ounces per acre. Does anyone know how big one acre is? 1 acre= 1.1 football fields. 262 ounces of liquid on the size of a football field... not very much. This same product is sprayed on potatoes,peanuts,and popcorn. I would be more worried on what you city folks are spraying on your yards,or golf coarses. The fungicides for yards are rated at 1oz/1000 sq.ft.,(43oz/acre) then repeat after 14 days in some cases. That comes to a grand total of 86oz/acre. So in comparison 6oz by an airplane compared to 43oz that people may typically spray on their lawn. And people are worried about the cropdusters!

Area resident wrote on 9/5/2007 at 17:23:34

I really like the fact that viewers can submit comments now. I think that it gives everyone a fair chance to learn things they might not already know. Thank you to the farmers who added the input that a lot of us may not have already known. It is amazing how many of us live with fields around us and don't understand all the education and experience that goes along with maintaining those fields. One thing I don't appreciate on this board though is the fact that people make rude comments to each other. Minonker, was it really necessary to question the farmers' intelligence by calling them "edumacted". If you don't agree that's fine...that is what this commenting is here for, but please let's use the respect that everyone complains kids are losing these days. (I wonder why?)

wondering here wrote on 9/5/2007 at 16:33:12

Okay the farmers have to spray to keep the bugs out of their fields, but common curiosity would be to let the families that live in the path of the spray notice that an airplane or themselves will be out spraying. Also farmers and all people spraying need to know that it gets WINDY out in the country and spray like anything else drifts. Farmer # 3 said to live in a community where they have the opportunity to easily discuss these issues with farmers and other professionals. THEN WHY CANT THE FARMERS LET THE PEOPLE KNOW??????????

Wondering wrote on 9/5/2007 at 10:23:44

If this chemical is so safe, then attempt to spray over a heavily populated city. You will have every government agency known to man, including the EPA all over you in a heartbeat! You would be lucky that all you get is a fine and not imprisonment. After all, you will have been contaminating the air with chemicals. Picture this chemical being transported by truck on the major highways and having an accident. Now we will have those same agencies including all the Haz.Mat. officials scurrying everywhere and in all probability, evacuating the nearby towns. If the chemical is so safe, would you let your children inhale the vapors? Would you allow them to put their hands in the liquid? Because fewer people are affected by the spraying, are they less important than the masses?

Minonker wrote on 9/5/2007 at 09:38:53

Gee, 'realistic'. I feel much better knowing the crop dusting planes are spraying fungicide rather than pesticide or herbicide. That's very comforting to know. And it's not the just the country dwellers who are affected by the chemicals being dropped in our laps. I know someone who was driving along Rt.251 in his car, innocently got into the path of a crop duster and was sprayed with fungicide. Said he had to turn the windsheild wipers on. He took it in stride like the rest of us, with the optomistic view, "At least I wasn't on my motorcycle." Whew! Certainly we non-farmers don't know as much about farming as edumacated "Farmer-Part1, Part2, Part3". What we are simply trying to say is, we are just plain tired of wearing, breathing, drinking and eating chemicals. Corn is in great demand this year and selling at a high cost.

Bystander wrote on 9/5/2007 at 08:28:16

To "ignorant," yes fungicides are toxic to fungus. I would think they're safe to humans/animals when applied appropriately, otherwise they'd be banned. I'd suggest the Rutland animal owner follow "Farmer"'s advice and have the local chemical dealer investigate that situation. They'd want to know about it since that should not have happened. The animals can't be brough back to life, but there may be some other remedies that can be discussed.

ignorant wrote on 9/5/2007 at 07:34:07

To farmer: Is spraying fungicide not toxic also? What about the animals in Rutland? Also, Dave's editorial did imply that genetically modified seed reduces the need for chemicals.

Farmer - Part 3 wrote on 9/4/2007 at 21:19:51

It's clear, but not surprising, that a lack of understanding exists with those not directly involved in agriculture. Local residents are fortunate, however, to live in a community where they have the opportunity to easily discuss these issues with farmers and other professionals. Gaining a better understanding can only help foster discussing these issues from a position of knowledge instead of emotion.

Farmer - Part 2 wrote on 9/4/2007 at 21:19:19

You also mischaracterized insect resistance. One way farmers can deal with this is alternating between different chemicals, just like rotating crops, from year to year to hamper the ability of pests/weeds to build resistance to a given chemical. Finally, To "I agree !" who asked, "explain to me how the spray can do much good anyway, this late in the season.." The month of July is not "late in the season." Regardless, determinations have been made as to what infestation threshholds make it worthwhile to treat crops. (As an aside, one cannot reasonably argue that any event, e.g. cancer, occuring in Minonk with a population of 2250 should correlate to an average associated with a 100,000 sample. Such an argument would be statistically flawed since Minonk's population is so small compared to the larger sample.)

Farmer - Part 1 wrote on 9/4/2007 at 21:18:35

Dave, your editorial and some of the replies show a lack of understanding of agriculture. First of all, contrary to your premise, most of the spraying was done to fight fungus diseases, not insects. This was due to the abnormally wet weather this year. Second, genetically modified seed has been used for years now. This technology has decreased, not increased, the need for subsequent chemical applications. You don't see many weedy bean fields anymore do you! By the way, the chemicals used are federally regulated, and their applicators must be licensed. If you or anyone feels that an application was done improperly or has caused any damage or injury, kindly talk to the farmer. Get to know him if you don't already. He can engage the applicator/chemical company, and they'll investigate.

realistic wrote on 9/4/2007 at 15:47:37

All of you have all the answer, stop the crop dusting, but when you have to go to the store and pay $8 for a box of cereral the price of gas is now out ragous. We don't need the price of every thing else to skyrocket because the crop dies from Fungi, which most of the crop dusters were spraying for not bugs

high five dave! wrote on 9/4/2007 at 10:23:12

Good article! I am one of those that has discussed this issue with you. I also talked to Judy about finding the ratio of cancer in this community and it needs to be made public. Yes it can drop our market value but an investigation should be enforced. Afterall cancer has no predjudices and who knows may God forbid who the next victim will be. Lets approach this problem and make people aware and find out what needs to be done before we lose anymore loved ones. Our childrens future is affected by our actions. Again nice article keep up the good work!

Cmj wrote on 9/4/2007 at 07:18:45

I disagree with your statement, "The solution to this problem is to come up with genetically modified seed that is disease resistant or to use organic methods of control or a combination of both." I believe that when we mess with nature by genetically altering items for consumption, we are taking risks with our bodies unneccesarily. I am concerned that this could be causing these incidents of diseases (mentioned in my first comment)to rise. Since GMO's have become commonplace in society, so has the numbers of people with cancer, imbalances, autism, etc. There is evidence to support this theory, but it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to make those connections. Again, I believe we are being poisoned on the homefront, but are burying our heads in the sand about the subject.

Lisa Zimmerman wrote on 9/4/2007 at 06:11:40

Mikes Step-Mother died 15 years ago of pancreatic cancer, his Dad died 31/2 years ago of prostate cancer that he had battled for 6 years and they lived in Washington Il. out in the country between corn and bean fields. Mikes dad had all kinds of fruit trees growing and he was very ecology wise with his trees and vegetable gardens. He made up the sugar concoctions and hung them in the trees to draw the bugs from eating his fruit and made up his own dusting that was not harmful to his vegetables or to any of us that ate what they grew. Mike and I have always felt that they both became sick over the years of pesticides used in the fields.

I agree ! wrote on 9/3/2007 at 20:17:38

I live in a neighboring town and for 2 weeks, all we heard was the air planes diving in and out of the fields around town..I live along the edge of town and you could see the chemical spray and smell it as well.. the corn is so tall and thick, explain to me how the spray can do much good anyway, this late in the season..

Cmj wrote on 9/3/2007 at 20:14:21

In Rutland, a crop duster sprayed and the three homes by the field had animals that died. Several dogs, chickens and cats died horrible deaths. One of the dogs was nursing ten pups! There were also two horses that got sick, but were able to be saved as the vet said the larger animals were able to fight the poison long enough to get treatment. ALL of the animals were in excellent health before this injustice. I was under the impression that it was against the law to crop dust or spray fields when it was windy outside....yet no matter how light or fierce the wind, spraying continues. Just think, if it killed the animals, what must be it doing to us? Has anyone stopped to consider that perhaps cancer isn't the only health concern that could be caused by spraying? Seems to me that numbers of people with Autism, Parkinsons, Alzheimers, brain chemical imbalances, and infertility are growing leaps and bounds. Are we being poisoned on the homefront? Sure is something to think about!

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