Communicating About Pesticide Use | Field Crop News

A neighbor has questions about the pesticides sprayed on your property. What are you legally obligated to provide, and how can these situations be handled?

Commercial and public applicators are required to follow laws about notifying individuals in the Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry (more details below).

Although private applicators are not legally obligated to share pesticide information with neighbors, it is important to keep good relationships with neighbors.

Extension agronomist Andrew Frankenfield offers these tips on talking to your neighbors about these applications.

Many people can experience fear about pesticide applications. Every person is going to have a different perception and tolerance of risk when it comes to pesticide applications.

If you are approached by a neighbor with concerns, try to take the time to listen and understand their point of view.

When answering their questions, avoid technical jargon and rely on facts. In your responses, use everyday examples that they may be able to relate to more — for example, comparing the signal words on pesticides to the signal words on household cleaners.

It can be helpful to explain that the word “pesticide” encompasses many groups of products that are specific to certain pests.

For example, herbicides target weedy plants, insecticides target insects, fungicides target fungal diseases, and nematicides control nematodes.

Using these terms can help show that when you make an application, you are trying to target a specific pest. This is also a good time to discuss pest thresholds and only making pesticide applications when there will be a clear benefit, both to your crop and to your finances.

With each application there is a cost associated with the pesticide product, fuel, and labor; therefore, a pesticide application only makes sense if the pest is present at damaging levels and the cost of the application is less than the cost of the damage caused by the pest.

Talk about integrated pest management and how pesticides are only used when necessary to control a pest. If you own spray equipment, offer to show your neighbors the technology used to make precise applications and lower rates.

Regardless of your certification level requirements (private, commercial or public), it is always important to maintain thorough records for all pesticide applications.

In the event of a complaint, these records could be your best defense and demonstrate your commitment to safety. These detailed records will also help you evaluate the effectiveness of your pesticide programs for future applications.

Depending on your certification level, you may not be required to disclose your application records to neighbors; however, explaining the elements of your records can help to show your neighbors that a lot of thought goes into each application.

If your neighbor has questions you cannot answer, help direct them to resources with credible information, such as the state Department of Agriculture or your local Extension office.

Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture maintains a registry of individuals who are hypersensitive to pesticides. The registry includes a listing of locations for people who have been verified by a physician to be excessively or abnormally sensitive to pesticides. Hypersensitive individuals may list multiple locations including their home, work, school (if a student), and vacation home.

Commercial and public pesticide applicators are required to notify hypersensitive individuals listed in the registry 12 to 72 hours in advance of pesticide applications that will occur within 500 feet of any location listed in the registry.

The notification can be made by one of these methods: providing information to an adult at one of the phone numbers listed in the registry, leaving a message on an answering machine listed as a “day or night” number, or leaving a door hanger at the registry listing following at least two unsuccessful phone attempts.

Other options include sending information by certified mail, fax, or e-mail, or providing information by personal contact.

The notification must include the following information: date and location of the planned pesticide application, earliest possible start time and latest possible finish time for the application (this range cannot exceed 24 hours), and brand names and EPA registration numbers for all pesticide products which may be used.

In addition you need to provide active ingredient common names for all pesticides which may be used, business contact information (name, phone number, business license number), and if requested by an individual from the registry, a copy of the label for every pesticide used.

The labels must be provided to them within 10 days of the request. For more information contact your regional Ag Department office or your local Extension office.

If you are looking for additional copies, many pesticide labels and their Safety Data Sheets can be found in the Crop Data Management Systems Database:

You can search for a product by brand name or other criteria. Once you select the product, under “Labels/SDS,” there will be a product label, any supplemental materials, and the SDS. All of these can be downloaded and printed.

If a neighbor files a formal complaint about pesticide damage with the Ag Department, an inspector will come out to investigate and document the situation. All pesticide applicators are legally obligated to share their pesticide records with the Ag Department upon request.

If you are facing a legal dispute related to pesticides or pesticide drift, there are resources available through Farm Bureau to help farmers. Call the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau at 717-761-2740 and ask for the Government Communications Department.

This Penn State Extension article is helpful in understanding glyphosate-related health risks.


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