By ED LENTZ
The Ohio Specialty Crop Registry connects producers of specialty crops, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators to one another through free online registries.
Producers of specialty crops and beekeepers may voluntarily report the boundaries of their specialty crops and beehives.
The registry then compiles this information in a mapping tool that also provides the contact information of the registrant. In doing so, pesticide applicators are better able to avoid these areas and minimize spray drift.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture partners with FieldWatch Inc. to operate the Ohio Specialty Crop Registry. FieldWatch is a nonprofit organization that operates three registries: DriftWatch for producers of specialty crops, BeeCheck for beekeepers, and CropCheck for producers of row crops.
FieldWatch creates maps based on the information from these registries, and makes those maps available to pesticide applicators in another program called FieldCheck.
In summary, the three registries are for the producers and beekeepers, and FieldCheck is for pesticide applicators.
Ohio currently only uses the DriftWatch and BeeCheck registries. While beekeepers may report the location of their beehives in DriftWatch, ODA recommends that beekeepers with no specialty crops use BeeCheck.
FieldWatch Inc. continues to update its tools to add features and indicators, and CropCheck represents one such development. New for 2019, this registry allows producers of row crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat to register their crops.
Its development comes on the heels of the introduction of dicamba-tolerant seeds. Only Arkansas, North Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana have adopted CropCheck for 2019. Ohio has not yet adopted it.
Using the Ohio Specialty Crop Registry is a risk-management tool for local producers, which is another word for limiting liability. As more farmers adopt organic practices, as pesticides and seeds change, and as weather patterns evolve, the risk increases that pesticide drift may come into contact with and negatively impact specialty crops and beehives.
The law expects people to act reasonably and to exercise due care at all times, and this default duty applies to pesticide applicators. Common claims for drift include negligence, nuisance, and trespass. Each of these claims examines whether the parties acted reasonably and with due care.
Most often, when a court decides that a pesticide applicator acted unreasonably, it is because he or she failed to apply the pesticide in a manner consistent with the label. Following the label is certainly an expectation, but it is not the only thing a court will consider.
If a pesticide applicator does not use FieldCheck, a perceptive attorney representing beekeepers and producers of specialty crops could argue that the use of FieldCheck is an industry standard. If an attorney could establish this, then the failure to use FieldCheck would mean that a pesticide applicator failed to act in a reasonable manner and exercise due care.
When a pesticide applicator does use FieldCheck, he or she has a stronger argument that he or she acted in a reasonable manner. FieldCheck provides pesticide applicators with a way to know exactly where registered sensitive crops and beehives are located, and allows the applicator to buffer accordingly.
FieldCheck provides a quick, cheap, and easy way to manage legal risk, alongside following the label. Applicators who use the program may want to document when they used the program and also how the maps impacted their application plan.
These scenarios presume that the beekeeper or producer of specialty crops has registered the locations of their bees or crop with a FieldWatch registry. When sued by a beekeeper or producer of specialty crops who did not register their locations, a pesticide applicator could use similar arguments as noted above in order to defend against the lawsuit.
However, the applicator’s focus would likely regard the lack of notice. Again, these arguments alone would not likely determine the outcome of the case, but they would help the court determine whether the parties acted reasonably.
As Ohio’s agriculture becomes more diverse, crops sensitive to a pesticide sprayed in an adjacent field may become more of problem. Ohio’s Specialty Crop Registry is a tool that can be used by farmers to improve communications in these situations.
More information on the Specialty Crop Registry and its legal ramifications may be found at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog/fri-03222019-851am/ohio-agricultural-law-bloghave-you-heard-about-ohio-specialty-crop-registry
Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for the Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.