Organic Farmers Stop Dimilin Pesticide Spraying

Ann and Phillip Hunt weren't content to sit by and allow pesticide spraying for gypsy moths to endanger their organic farm. They organized their neighbors, fought back, and won.

| November/December 1978

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    Gypsy moths on a tree.
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    When pesticide spraying for gypsy moths would have undermined their livelihoods, a group of Michigan farmers organized to block it from happening.

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The April 21 radio news program probably went unnoticed n most Michigan homes, but one segment of that broadcast made wholistic farmer Ann Hunt sit up and listen:

"Portions of Clare, Isabella, Mecosta, Montcalm, and Saginaw Counties," the announcer said, "will be sprayed this spring to control gypsy moths."

Ann was, of course, concerned. But, when she began to search for additional information about the moth control program, she ran into countless red-tape roadblocks. Finally, Ms. Hunt went to the Mount Pleasant, Michigan USDA office, where she was told that her family's Ragged Rainbow Farm was indeed in the target area and would be sprayed with a chemical pesticide called Dimilin.

The USDA people didn't offer much additional information, but Ann and Phillip Hunt knew that something had to be done. (After all, they earned their living from the sale of "organically" grown products.) To get the ball rollin', the Hunts contacted 30 other folks whose lands also would be affected by the proposed pesticide "bombing." These people met at Ragged Rainbow Farm to prepare a list of questions, which they hoped to present at a May 31 "public meeting" with the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

If the bureaucrats were surprised when their small assembly room suddenly was filled to beyond its seating capacity, they certainly didn't let the evidence of public concern change their plans. Most of the questions that the farmers' group had so carefully prepared went unanswered. Worse yet, the MDA announced that Dimilin would, indeed, be sprayed, and that it would be used on fence-rows, single trees in planted fields, and houseside shrubs, as well as in the "uninhabited forests" that the chemical was supposed to protect. Many of the wholistic farmers—who had expected their needs to be at least considered—left the room confused and angry. They weren't ready to give up, however. How could they, when in many cases their livelihood depended upon a pesticide-free crop? It was mostly out of desperation that the original group of landowners formed the Citizens Against Chemical Contamination and began to take steps to protect their farms.

In order to prepare for their "campaign," the new organization's members set out to learn all they could about the proposed "insect control" operation. This data was gathered through contacts with the EPA, test results obtained from the pesticide's manufacturer, copies of the MDA's 1978 Gypsy Moth Management Action Plan, and the study of alternate ecologically sound-methods of dealing with the bugs.

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