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October 23, 2014

Organic farmer says he was drenched with pesticides; sues spraying company

A northwest Minnesota organic farmer is suing a pesticide company, after he claims he was sprayed with chemicals from an aerial applicator, leading to a host of health problems such as vomiting blood, dizziness, and uncontrollable shaking in his hand, KFGO reports.

In the suit, Carsten Thomas claims Moorhead-based Ag Spray Inc. drenched him with chemicals as he was driving a roofless vehicle on a country road in July of 2011, KVRR reports.

Thomas helps run the organic Doubting Thomas Farm along with his siblings and parents, a fifth-generation family business located outside of Moorhead. Forum News Service says it’s located next to a conventional farm that uses pesticides, and was being sprayed by Ag Spray on July 11, 2011.

Thomas and his family reported the incident to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Forum News Service reports, and Ag Spray paid a fine for violating stat pesticide laws.

KFGO says Thomas is seeking at least $50,000 in damages.

Pesticides in Minnesota

The sale, use and disposal of pesticides in the state of Minnesota is monitored by the Department of Agriculture.

The agency’s monitoring procedures focus on groundwater and surface water protection, with reports issued periodically.

Two years ago, a group of Minnesotans finished a three-year project collecting air data samples from 19 different sites across Minnesota, the Pesticide Action Network reported. The data results showed that, for several months each summer, residents in central Minnesota are exposed to chlorothalonil.

According to Toxipedia, chlorothalonil has a low acute toxicity to people, and is quickly expelled from the human body. But it is listed as a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled pesticide drifting from one property to an organic farm is not trespassing – but it is negligence, the Star Tribune reported. The lawsuit stemmed from organic farmers in Stearns County, who asked a neighboring farm to use caution when spraying their pesticides, the paper explained. But the chemicals consistently drifted over the the organic farm, leading to the loss of their organic license; they sued in 2009, the Star Tribune reported.

The effect pesticides and insecticides may have on honeybees has garnered particular attention as of late. Bachman’s is now growing plants without the use of neonicotinoids – a type of insecticide that causes paralysis and death in insects such as the honeybee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering monetary incentives to some Midwest farmers who take efforts to sustain the bee population.