Over the last few months, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) has chosen not to act on two items of interest. The first is the pesticide notification registry, which has been a roller coaster ride at the board and legislative level for a few years. After the comprehensive pesticide notification registry was repealed in the last session of the legislature, Representatives James Dill and Jeffrey Timberlake remained true to their word and approached the BPC to work out details of a new registry. At its February meeting, the BPC decided it had exhausted the registry issue and would not be able to reach a good solution near-term for everyone involved. The BPC decided to write letters to Dill and Timberlake to thank them for their interest and tell them it would not be working on pesticide notification in the coming months. This leaves open the possibility that the BPC will again have to implement pesticide notification rules resulting from legislation rather than developing its own rules and solutions to this ongoing debate.
Also in February, the BPC voted to put forward a policy regarding genetically engineered Bt corn products in Maine. It chose to work from a policy rather than initiate rulemaking to clarify issues related to refuge-in-the-bag corn approved at its prior meeting. (See the March-May MOF&G.) The policy allows neighbors of those growing Bt corn to request a 300-foot refuge of non-Bt corn planted so that it protects abutters from potential pollen drift. This policy interprets the board rule but is not in the rule.
Henry Jennings, BPC director, says, “Growers should not be shy about contacting the board for advice or mediation to deal with neighbors when issues arise concerning refuges and pollen drift.” It is not clear how the board will proceed concerning Bt corn. An April 9 meeting sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization laid out plans for thousands of new acres of Bt corn to be grown in Maine as chicken feed for Land O’Lakes’ facility in central Maine – which could mean that more organic farms have neighbors growing Bt corn. Growers are encouraged to contact the BPC to discuss options for protection from pollen drift.
In February the board approved a Special Local Need request by Syngenta for use of Callisto Herbicide on lowbush blueberries to control broadleaf weeds during a crop year. Callisto was already registered for such use during nonbearing years. According to BPC toxicologist LeBelle Hicks, “[Callisto’s] mechanism of toxicity in mammals is the inhibition of metabolism of the amino acid tyrosine, resulting in high tyrosine levels in the blood. In plants the mode of action is also inhibition of tyrosine catabolism resulting in depleted chlorophyll levels.” The board approved this request with a five-year expiration date so that the product can be reviewed again then.
At a special meeting in March, the board requested that the EPA allow use of Revus Fungicide on seed potato pieces in Maine, as late blight (Phytophthora infestans) has been detected in seed potato pieces this year, and growers of non-organic potatoes want to use the fungicide. The EPA is expected to respond by June.
Francis Pulsifer of Pulsifer Orchard in Cornish was fined $300 for pesticide drift onto a neighboring property on two occasions. On the first, a mix of Polyram 60 DF and Permethrin applied via airblast sprayer drifted onto an abutting property. About three weeks later, the same employee was applying a mix of Captec 4L, Imidan 70-W and Drexyl Carbaryl 4L with an airblast sprayer when, again, drift was confirmed on the abutting property, an orchard the landowner is trying to manage organically.
In February the board unanimously approved a consent agreement with Sullivan Properties in Lewiston. A citizen had alerted the BPC that an unlicensed employee of Sullivan Properties applied insecticides inside an apartment building in Lewiston. An investigation found that an employee had applied Hot Shot Bedbug & Flea Home Insect Killer in at least two apartments, the halls and cellar. Nobody at the company had the required license for such an application. Sullivan Properties was fined $500.
The BPC reached a consent agreement with Bruce Korhonen of Korhonen Land Care of Woodstock for a July 2011 incident at the Woodstock town ball field. Korhonen Land Care had won the bid to keep the infields there weed-free, but nobody at the company had the required commercial applicator’s license to treat the ball field. A citizen observed a Korhonen company employee applying a pesticide and alerted the board. An investigation revealed that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was present at 2,139 ppm, far above a dose that will kill vegetation. A $600 fine was levied.
In February the board fined Lucas Tree Experts Company of Portland $500 for failing to notify a registrant on the current non-agricultural Pesticide Notification Registry. A Lucas Tree employee applied Astro Insecticide to a willow tree in a South Portland neighborhood to control aphids. A property within 250 feet of the application is listed on the notification registry, but the homeowner did not receive the required notification.
In an unusual case Christian Bulleman III of Dresden reached a consent agreement with the board that required him to perform public service work equivalent to his $350 proposed fine for a violation. Without the required commercial pesticide applicator’s license, Bulleman had applied Shockwave, a disinfectant and cleaner, for mold remediation at the Phippsburg Town Office. He claimed that he was unaware of the licensing requirement and promptly sought the license after this incident.
In March the board voted unanimously to send an unresolved case involving Hemingway Orchard in Hebron, owned by Dennis and Jan Barker, to the attorney general’s office. This case involves at least four alleged drift incidents since 2010. Two, according to BPC investigations, confirmed drift of Drexel Damoil, Imidan 70-W/BASF, Sovran Fungicide, Lorsban 75WG, Polyram 80DF and Captec 4L, with applications made by airblast sprayer. The Barkers refused to sign consent agreements for either violation.
– Katy Green