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bean field being sprayed
PICK TIME CAREFULLY: This field isn’t near a subdivision, but it’s next to a couple of houses, and that means yards, trees and perhaps gardens. It was calm the day this operator sprayed.

Why it pays to be careful when you spray

People are watching, and the public often doesn’t really understand what they see.

One theme during the panel discussion at the Master Farmer awards program this year stood out clearly. Every new Master Farmer stressed that it’s important to make sure the public understands what farmers are doing, and why they’re doing it. One Master Farmer, Richard Law, Atlanta, Ind., even named the need for liability insurance as one of the many changes he’s seen during his long career in agriculture.

Why does it matter what the public thinks? Because in this social media age, perception turns into reality, whether real or out of context. And reality can turn into laws and regulations that could hamstring your operation.

The release of a video by the Animal Rescue Mission showing animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms earlier this year heightened everyone’s awareness. There’s likely more to the story than just some employees going rogue. Nevertheless, the incident showed how quickly the public is ready to believe the worst about agriculture.

The trust that once existed between the public and farmers has pretty much disappeared. Why wait for the facts when you can see a video depicting horrific events? Cameras don’t lie, do they?

No, but they can be manipulated. Let’s hope enough people not in agriculture realize there still needs to be time for discovery of all the facts before rash judgments rule the day.

Spraying situations

Whoever thought, even a decade ago, that surroundings would be the overriding decision in crop management decisions? Yet here’s a real-life example:

A retailer sent his licensed custom applicator to spray a field of young soybeans with escaped marestail. The applicator was going to spray dicamba.

Several days, later the farmer drove by the field and did a double take. Marestail plants weren’t even dinged. One call to the retailer revealed why.

He explained that his applicator pulled into the field to spray. It just happens to border an elementary school. It was a Saturday in June, so no school was in session. However, there was a softball game going on not far from the field. The alert driver noticed that as soon as he pulled in, people started looking his way. He radioed his boss and they decided not to spray that day. Busy with other fields, the retailer forgot to let the farmer know they would be back soon.

rural homestead
WHAT OPERATOR SAW: The person driving the sprayer in the photo above saw this sight when he headed south in the field. Directly across a gravel driveway was this rural home, trees, ornamental shrubs and a garden on the right — all sensitive spots.

If you have rural neighbors, being sensitive to things such as gardens, trees and ornamental shrubs has been on your radar for some time. But today that’s not enough. Now, you also must factor in what people might think, whether spraying a field could possibly cause harm or not.

The Master Farmers were right. It’s a different world today. Whether you like it or not, there’s another variable you must consider besides wind speed and field conditions today. Who is watching, and what will they think?

Comments? Email tom.bechman@farmprogress.com.

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