This airborne pesticide drift is a serious issue and is actually the subject of a case heard earlier this month by the Minnesota State Supreme Court after working its way through the state's court system. If the court rules in favor of organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson, it could have widespread implications.
According to Pesticide Action Network:
"Oluf and Debra Johnson are farmers taking a stand against pesticide drift in Paynesville, Minnesota.And here's the summary of the case, as prepared by the Minnesota Supreme Court Commissioner's Office:
"Between 1998 and 2008, the Johnson’s fields were contaminated five times by pesticide drift. As a result, they lost their organic farming certification. Oluf — who was a conventional farmer for 15 years before converting to organic — tried speaking to the pesticide applicators, asking that they not spray on windy days. As many organic farmers do, he maintained his own buffer zones between his fields and neighboring non-organic fields. Finally, in 2009, Oluf filed suit for damages.
"On February 9th the Johnson's case was heard before the Minnesota State Supreme Court, which will be the highest body of law to rule on pesticide drift as trespass. This case could be groundbreaking if pesticide applicators are actually held liable for drift. We attended the trial in Minnesota, are monitoring the case and expect a ruling by early May."
"Oluf Johnson, et al., Respondents vs. Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company, Appellant – Case Nos. A10-1596 and A10-2135: Respondents Oluf and Debra Johnson are organic farmers who brought claims for trespass, nuisance, and negligence per se against appellant Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company. The Johnsons allege that Paynesville caused chemical pesticides to drift onto fields they were using or intending to use in the production of organic crops. The district court granted summary judgment to Paynesville on all claims, concluding that Minnesota law does not recognize “trespass by particulate matter” and that the Johnsons did not present sufficient evidence of damages to sustain their nuisance and negligence per se claims. The court of appeals reversed and remanded.Click here to offer encouragement and support to the Johnsons.
"On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the Johnsons can sustain a claim for trespass based upon allegations of drift of pesticide spray; (2) whether the Johnsons established a prima facie case for damages under their nuisance and negligence per se claims; and (3) whether the district court erred in dismissing the Johnsons’ claim for permanent injunctive relief and denying leave to amend their complaint. (Stearns County)"