It’s worthy to be a good neighbor, whether you live in a subdivision, condo, apartment or farm for a living.
Hopefully, it is reciprocal.
That has not been the case for a central San Joaquin Valley raisin producer who has not only been a bad neighbor, but one who is backed by the law, specifically, regulations for organic farming.
Organic is a big deal these days ... at least in the minds of some consumers who believe organic is better and pesticide-free. It is neither. However, consumers are willing to pay more for organic, and growers who can profit from that are rightfully taking advantage.
If growers want to play in the philosophical organic market, they must follow organic production laws. Organic producers can only use crop protection products approved for organic production. Those rules also impact conventional growers who neighbor organic producers.
Inadvertent spray drift of a non-organically approved crop protection product is the most obvious threat to a neighbor’s organic certification. If residue from a non-organically approved product is detected on the crop, it is devastating.
Growers never purposely drift chemical onto neighboring crops, but it happens. Usually it is not draconian. If it is in conventional agriculture and economic damage is proven, insurance or an agreement to pay restitution between the violator and the damaged grower takes care of it.
But what about the actions or inactions of an organic grower that impacts a conventional grower?
That’s what is happening with a valley raisin grower who is inheriting puncturevine and spider mites from an organic grower who is not taking care of business. (He asked that we not use his name.)
The grower talked to the organic farmer’s foreman to no avail. He went to his county ag commissioner who told him there were no regulations requiring organic growers to confine unwanted pests to organic fields.
Mites are costly to control, especially if they coming from a neighbor’s field. Puncturevines are more onerous because hand pickers are often on their hands and knees gathering grapes to dry on the trays and puncture vines are nasty. If there are enough of them in a vineyard, the harvest crew could walk off the job. No one would blame them.
The organic grower tries to control the noxious weed with burn down organic cinnamon/clove oil spray herbicide. Might as well just toss hot water on puncturevine. They come back. They wouldn’t with a benign translocating herbicide.
When housing developers put in subdivisions, they must to pay impact fees for roads, fire, police, sewer and the like. Perhaps there needs to be an impact fees for organic growers. And maybe some additional regulations like a 100-foot setback from the edge of a road. That would provide a conventional grower with a buffer against inadvertent drift.
It’s not neighborly to restrict conventional farmers and cater to organic growers. It is conventional farming that is feeding the world. Organic never will.
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