Pesticide drift investigations will stay secret in SD

Investigates

This follow-up is on a 2018 KELOLAND News investigation into chemical trespass.

An effort to open up South Dakota Department of Agriculture investigation records into chemical drift, so that victims can see the results, failed in a Senate Committee today.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture supplied its investigation records to victims of chemical drift until 2017, but then suddenly stopped.

KELOLAND Investigates showed you the video of the spraying of pesticides on a windy day in the summer of 2017, which drifted onto Angela and Glenn Pulse’s organic farm.

“I would like to say it’s a one-time isolated incident, but we have other friends in the industry and other friends that grow gardens in their backyards–it’s not isolated. It’s something that repeatedly happens,” Vermillion Organic Farmer, Glenn Pulse, said in June of 2018

Since the Pulse’s incident and repeated issues with another herbicide that KELOLAND Investigates exposed in a series of reports called Dicamba Drift, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture stopped providing any public record of its investigations, citing a South Dakota law which protects law enforcement from making investigative information public.

“There was no law change, they just started to refuse to release those,” Sen. Art Rusch said.

Today Retired Judge and Republican Senator Art Rusch, told the Senate Ag and Natural Resource committee that victims of chemical trespass are now required to pay an attorney to subpoena those records and even then, nothing in the law guarantees they will get them.

“Particularly the victim, that’s what I think is so egregious about this; is that the victims aren’t able to find out the results of this investigation,” Sen Rusch said.

Glen Pulse told the committee that his organic farm was knocked out of business due to chemical trespass and he needed the Department of Agriculture investigation records on his case for insurance and legal purposes.

“The South Dakota Department of Ag is purposely trying to prevent public release of records when the EPA says they are public records,” Victim of Chemical Trespass, Glenn Pulse said in the committee hearing.

Vermillion Organic Farmer Glenn Pulse testifies before the Senate Ag and Natural Resources Committee

However, lobbyists for the state’s soybean association, aviation association, Farm Bureau and Agribusiness Association all want Department of Ag investigative information to be kept secret.

“This change allows anyone at any time to demand the records of an investigation done by the Department of Ag,” Brenda Forman, Lobbyist for South Dakota Association of Cooperatives.

The South Dakota Specialty Producers Association, which represents people like grape growers and beekeepers also supported the bill and told the committee that their members are declining, due to people leaving the state because of pesticide damage, or just stopping production altogether.
Many other states make their pesticide investigations public. However, South Dakota will not be among them.

The Pulse’s lost their organic farm certification for three years because of pesticide contamination. They will get it back next year on all of their land.

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