An opinion column published in Eugene’s Register-Guard newspaper earlier this month raises a number of important questions about a staple of agricultural life: aerial spraying. While crop dusting is viewed as an essential component of agriculture by many farmers, it has its detractors as well (the op-ed’s author is identified as a “farmer and forestland owner”) and there is no question that without proper safeguards and appropriate caution by pilots the practice may lead to Oregon wrongful death or to less severe – but nonetheless serious – medical consequences.
The op-ed criticizes the state bodies charged with regulating aerial spraying for what the author calls their “utter failure” to protect the public. Its harshest criticism, however, is reserved for Oregon regulations and legal opinions that leave those involved in aerial spraying “immune from liability for off-target drift, unless the poison causes organ failure or death.”
Clearly such a development, leading to a Eugene or Salem wrongful death, would be the most serious consequence imaginable. This is not, however, merely a health issue. Issues of commerce and people’s livelihoods are also involved. For example, with the growing popularity of organic products, the drift of pesticides from one farmer’s land to another has become a serious issue being addressed by legislatures in many parts of the country. Obviously the possibility of drift is far greater when the pesticide is applied from the air. Leaving aside entirely any potential health concerns, many organic farmers around the country fear the loss of high-value crops should someone else’s ill-applied pesticide drift across onto their land.
Oregon wrongful death as a result of exposure to pesticides is, perhaps, the greatest danger associated with this practice, but it is far from the only risk involved. Near-blanket immunity for the sprayers creates problems rather than solving them. Safety needs to be everyone’s concern. From a Portland wrongful death lawyer’s perspective, the best result for all Oregonians is to avoid court while finding solutions that address the health, safety and commercial needs of all farmers, residents of and visitors to our rural areas.
Eugene Register-Guard: Let’s stop aerial spraying of poison on forestland