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May 10, 2018 07:04 AM

Preview: Chemical Drifting Poses Risk For Organic Farming

Sioux Falls

The demand for organic is changing the way some people are farming, including big corporations.  

In fact, General MIlls just sealed a deal for South Dakota's largest organic wheat crop for its Annie's Macaroni & Cheese line. Gunsmoke Farms will convert 34,000 acres west of Pierre to organic by 2020. 

According to the Organic Trade Association and the USDA, South Dakota now ranks in the top ten for organic soybean production in the nation. There are more than 100 certified organic operations in the state, taking up about 100,000 acres.  

But in order to be certified organic, you can't have any pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on your land. That will knock an organic farm out of production for several years. The biggest threat to organic farmers is something called "chemical trespass."

Angela and Glenn Pulse were raising free-range organic chickens just outside of Vermillion. They even were about to start a USDA-approved processing plant and get their chickens into the grocery stores when all that came to an abrupt end. Chemicals sprayed by a nearby crop duster drifted onto their chemical-free land. 

"The biggest risk to our organic agriculture in South Dakota is pesticide drift by far," Angela said.

The Pulses lost their organic certification for three years.

" It's trespassing. You're not physically trespassing as a person, but your product is coming onto my property damaging my business," Glenn said. 

Angela and Glenn say South Dakota isn't doing enough to enforce the laws to stop the problem. It is one of 19 states that have joined Driftwatch — a website with an interactive map that show chemical applicators where sensitive crops are so they can avoid them. 

Coming up tonight in KELOLAND News at 6 and 10, Angela Kennecke takes an in-depth look at the problem of chemical trespass and how the Pulse's farm wasn't the only one affected by that spayer last July. 

KELOLAND Investigates will also look into what the state did about it and where South Dakota falls short when it comes to protecting the victims of chemical trespass.  

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