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For the week of July 26 through August 1, 2000

It’s unanimous: Carey council backs aerial crop spraying

Health impact is dominant issue

"I’m sad to be at this meeting. I’m sorry to have to defend my livelihood."

Inge Molyneux, Carey farmer

Express Staff Writer

The Carey City Council, after listening to neighbor debate neighbor over aerial chemical spraying of farm land within city limits, unanimously decided to allow the practice to continue.

Technically, the council can’t directly ban spraying. Only the state can do this.

But the panel can decide whether or not to continue issuing letters to the pilots, called "aerial applicators," granting them authority to fly over the city’s limits.

Councilman Dan Parke made the motion last Tuesday for the city to continue issuing permission letters that green light the application of "pesticide/herbicides within the municipal boundaries of the city of Carey." The only change was to alter language describing crop pest-controlling chemicals from "pesticide/herbicides" to "pesticides."

The three dozen or so Carey area residents who showed up for the meeting reflected the community’s division over aerial spraying.

Pro-spraying farmers sat next to their neighbors whose homes back up to farm fields where spraying occurs. Many in this latter group were concerned over spraying’s health impact.

Before opening discussion on the controversial issue, Council President Bob Simpson, in charge of the meeting in Mayor Rick Baird’s absence, admonished the audience that all comment should be addressed to the council. If there was any shouting or shenanigans, he said, he would close the public hearing.

Setting aside time to hear residents voice their views on aerial crop spraying stemmed from the council’s June 20 meeting when it heard the concerns of Jerry and Diana Decker and Kaye Sparks, all of Carey.

The Deckers and Sparks presented the council with a petition of 39 names calling for the city to ban "the practice of airplane spraying" within the city. Their primary concern was the health of their children, the elderly and the sick.

At first, when Simpson asked for public comment at the Tuesday council session, no one volunteered. So he asked two representatives of the Idaho Department of Agriculture, who had been invited to attend by the council, to introduce themselves.

They were Rod Gabehart, a Twin Falls-based senior agricultural investigator for the agency’s south central region; and Jim Baker, a Boise-based toxicologist.

Carey resident Ron Hill started the public discussion. He wanted to know if aerial applicators were bonded.

Gabehart said the applicators were required by Idaho to be financially responsible for the consequences of their work.

Jerry Decker, a critic of aerial spraying, then told the council he had an additional 15 names to add to the 39 on the petition calling for an end to spraying.

Many who signed, he said, were uncomfortable about their public position because they were "fearful of repercussions."

Nevertheless, he said, the petitioners were concerned about spraying "not in general, but about overspraying and the effect on the community."

Spraying’s impact on residents’ health is of primary concern, he underscored.

"To say these things are safe is absurd," he said. "The [federal] EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is investigating these chemicals right now."

Lita Hansen of Carey had her own list of names to present to the council—a petition in support of the farmers’ pro-spraying position.

Approximately 105 people, she said, signed their names to the following statement:

"We the undersigned wish to show our support of the farming community of Carey. We endorse their efforts to maintain their agricultural ground by the means they see fit, whether by ground and/or aerial spraying."

A popular speaker was Inge Molyneux, a member of a Carey farming family.

The first thing she did was present the council with a copy of a story in the Mountain Express (July 12) on crop spraying. She said it provided a starting point in an effort to understand the dynamics of aerial spraying.

"I don’t think we have to be hostile" about aerial spraying, she said, but "we do have to have common sense.

"I send my kids inside the house when I hear a crop duster."

Then, again, she said she is the kind of person who makes sure "everyone has their safety belts on" before she starts driving.

She had nothing but praise for the applicator pilots.

"These pilots are so incredible," she said. "They’re like the Blue Angels."

Molyneux argued against the perception that farmers were overspraying their crops.

Farmers, she said, don’t use expensive chemicals lightly—not when the last time she applied chemicals to her farm it cost $300 a gallon.

"I’m sad to be at this meeting," she said. "I’m sorry to have to defend my livelihood."

Applause broke out as she took her seat.

Then, Wendy Noble of Carey attempted to frame what she saw as a bottom line question.

"I want to ask farmers what would happen if they didn’t spray," she asked.

As several farmers began to respond, one voice was heard above the rest:

"We’d be broke in a year."


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