Oregon lawn care companies, farmers and timber owners, even landlords and apartment managers who use herbicides and pesticides to control vegetation and pests, are now required to electronically provide the State Department of Agriculture with information about what type of chemicals they use, their quantity and where they are applied.
The state’s Pesticide Use Reporting System went into effect on Jan. 1. Although first approved in 1999, the program was only partially funded until the 2005-2007 biennium. The current budget is about $1.9 million. Although originally intended to sunset in 2009, it’s expected that the legislature will extend its lifespan.
A temporary system, implemented about 2002, was not user friendly, according to Sara “Sunny” Jones, with the ODA’s pesticide division. The new system will be used by more than 120,000 pesticide applicators statewide and could generate nearly 8 million reports of individual applications annually.
Reporting is via Web site only. Information can be found at www.oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/purs_index. shtml.
Partial project funding comes from a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Public Health Tracking Program. Original plans called for the system to record data that farmers and others feared could be used by environmental extremists to single out individual pesticide users.
That’s not the case with the new program, which will record location data in a broader way nn by watershed or ZIP code.
Norma Grier, executive director of the Northwest Coalition For Alternatives to Pesticides, said the program is a good first step.
“Our organization has worked hard to help pass the law in 1999,” Grier said. “We have been very interested in establishing a system in Oregon that tracks what pesticides are used and where, in order to better protect our water and air and the health of our people and wildlife.”
Grier said education of user groups will be a key to the program’s success. She said farmers and foresters already keep records and work with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Other groups, such as landscapers, will have to learn what’s expected of them in terms of record keeping.
Katie Fast, associate director of legislative affairs for the Oregon Farm Bureau, said the program adds a “burden on the ag community to report their pesticide use on all products that have an EPA label.” But, she added, the Farm Bureau has supported the effort and has had input throughout its creation.
“It’s going to take time for the farm community to get used to the program and the computer system,” Fast said. “The amount of time required will depend on the size of each operation. Probably, for a mid-sized farm, it may be a hassle but not much of an economic burden. For large operations, it may require quite a bit of work.”
Debbie Ego of Rasmussen Spray Service in Salem, is among those the State Department of Agriculture calls when programmers are developing updates for the system. “We trouble shoot it to see if it’s going to work” Ego said. “The first time it came out, there were quite a few things I wasn’t happy with. The programmers really didn’t have ag backgrounds. They were doing things strictly from a computer programming background. The new system is user friend. It’s pretty easy to report.”
Ego said it’s important that reporting be anonymous. “Although it may not satisfy the environmental community down the road, we believe it will give us information on what chemicals and how much are being used in different areas of the state,” Ego said. “It isn’t the end all, but it’s important information.”
Spraying companies already keep indepth records of their pesticide usage, Ego said, so uploading that information to a state computer system shouldn’t be a major problem. The state did a good job seeking public input in developing the system, Ego added.
Greg Sullens, who owns Santiam Spray Service in Sweet Home, agrees with Ego. “It’s probably just going to be time consuming,” Sullens said. “It’s a matter of just doing it. It’s a necessary evil, just dotting your ‘I’s’ type of thing. It will be cumbersome at first, but after a while, it will be as easy as turning on a light switch.”
Bill Marshall oversees spraying operations at Cascade Timber Consulting in Sweet Home. The company manages nearly 150,000 acres of timberland in East Linn County.
“It’s very encompassing,” Marshall said. “Due to the other rules and regulations that already govern the application of chemicals in our operations, we’re already keeping the information we’ll have to report. We’re computer literate here, so that helps.”
Marshall estimates spraying occurs on only 5 percent of the company’s work days, “so it won’t be a big time constraint.”
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