Chemical Trespass Update: Insurance Requirement Fails

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You’ve heard of the crime of trespassing; when you go onto someone’s private property uninvited. It’s called chemical trespassing when one farmer’s chemicals land uninvited on a neighboring property.

Our KELOLAND News investigation showed you chemical trespass caught on camera last spring.

Now the owners of an organic farm, along with bee keepers in the state, have asked the legislature to hold commercial sprayers accountable by making them carry liability insurance for damages.

Glenn and Angela Pulse of Prairiesun Organic Farm captured a video of a pilot spraying chemicals on a cornfield across the street from their farm last spring.

The wind blew the chemicals right over onto their property. 

“When we got over sprayed on that day, it set us back at least three years. It cost us in excess of $100,000,” Glenn said on May 10, 2018. 

In addition to leaving high levels of fungicide on their organic crops, the beekeeper who keeps hives on their land lost 700 bees that tested positive for insecticide. 

The pilot was issued a misdemeanor and paid a fine.

But the Pulses can’t get their organic certification back for three years. 

“My insurance didn’t cover the losses and I can’t purchase insurance for this type of damage,” Angela Pulse said.

Angela Pulse testified before a legislative committee, asking members to pass a bill that would require commercial sprayers to carry $100,000 worth of liability insurance to cover incidents like what happened on their farm.

“I was a victim of an uninsured crop duster in 2017 that altered the course of my life both financially and physically. The losses are very painful,” Glenn Pulse said.

Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota all require chemical applicators to carry liability insurance.

“You have to have insurance to drive a car, so why wouldn’t you have to have insurance to apply dangerous chemicals through the air or through the ground,” Senate Bill 147 Sponsor Rep. Arthur Rusch said.

John Zuhlke, owner of Little Shire Farm, says he lost produce for farmers markets, trees on his property and bees for his prospering honey farm–all to chemical drift.

“Chemical trespass is rampant in this state. We are now losing broadleaf pollinator habitat several weeks and months earlier than normal and it means weaker bees and less survival,” Seward said.

But the South Dakota Farm Bureau spoke in opposition of the requirement, saying it would be a hardship on farmers because the cost of the insurance would be passed along to them.

The Department of Agriculture says it doesn’t have the resources to enforce a law requiring insurance for commercial pesticide applicators.

In the end, the bill failed by a vote of 5 to 4.

Proponents say they hope to try for a law requiring liability insurance for chemical applicators again next year.
 

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