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Aerial applicators reminded of safety

Knowing the type and quantity of pesticides, fertilizers and other materials that should be on hand is one way to help combat terrorism, an LSU AgCenter specialist told pilots who distribute such materials this week.

Mary Grodner, a pesticide safety specialist with the LSU AgCenter, stressed that message to aerial applicators during the 47th annual conference of Louisiana Aerial Applicators Association in Lafayette, La.

In wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., it is even more important now to keep such items under lock and key since some of them could be used in making bombs and others also might be hazardous if improperly handled.

“Make sure no one else has a key to the supply,” Grodner said. “Also, make sure all of your chemicals are secure — no matter how little or how much you have. Know what you have so that if some disappears, you'll know how much.”

In addition to that advice on keeping up with their inventory, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom also encouraged the aerial applicators to keep up with ongoing agricultural legislation that could affect the way they do business.

“One issue coming down the pike is the proposed deregulation of drift,” Odom said. “It is important that you keep up with this and know what's going on so you'll be ready if there are any changes.”

Drift regulations are laws that concern the drifting of chemicals intended to be sprayed on one property but carried to another by wind.

Odom also spoke about the new federal farm bill that is tied up in Congress.

“We have to have a farm bill with AMTA payments,” he said. “Our farmers have to be able to make a living so that American farmers can keep growing the food and fiber we need in the United States.

“If we are not able to produce the agricultural commodities we need here in the United States, some other country will — and we'll have to pay for it.”

AMTA stands for Agriculture Market Transition Assistance. Payments made through this program are paid to farmers based on their production of certain crops.

Zoren O'Brien, director of the National Aerial Applicators Association and a resident of Iowa, La., agrees with Odom.

“I think President Bush has learned the importance of our industry to the production of food and fiber for our nation and the world,” O'Brien said. “The NAAA, together with a coalition of farm groups and several other influential members of Congress, challenged the grounding of our airplanes following the tragic events of Sept. 11. The NAAA was on the forefront in the fight to lift the order, and, if not for the long hours the staff spent working on this, we would still be grounded.”

Denis Guillemette, owner-operator of Lake Aviation Inc. in Lake Arthur, La., agrees farmers need to be assured reasonable payments for their crops because of the domino effect on the industry as a whole.

“If they don't get paid, we (aviators) don't get paid,” said Guillemette, who has been flying for 23 years. “We are paid on commission, and we have to spray if we want to get paid. (Producers) can't pay us if they aren't paid. It affects everyone.”

The aviators also learned how using the proper equipment is one way they can optimize their performance. Dan Martin of the LSU AgCenter's environmental science division spoke about the importance of choosing the correct nozzle for the job.

“Bigger is not always better,” Martin said, explaining smaller nozzles actually contribute to higher-pressure spraying. “Research shows spray quality improves with increasing pressure. You want to make sure you have the right spray nozzle for the job you're going to be doing.”

To help aviators learn how to improve their businesses even more, the LSU AgCenter is offering pattern testing clinics Feb. 27-28 in Etherwood, La., and March 6 in Marksville, La. For information about these clinics, contact Dan Martin at 225-578-6919 or

A. Denise Coolman writes for the LSU AgCenter.

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