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Farmer Paul's Row - Staying Compliant - Paul Betz, High Ledge Farm, Woodbury, VT & High Mowing Organic Seeds Sales Associate

Farmer Paul BetzI have been farming for ten years now. While we are certified organic, we do spray some allowable pesticides and fungicides. I have always kept a log for my certification that includes the product, concentration amount and location of the application. Imagine my surprise when one day an inspector showed up on my farm and started asking questions about where I store my pesticides and where I post this information. What about my WPS (Worker Protection Standard) certification?

My what?

It turned out that I had been out of compliance for years. In August of 1992, the EPA revised the WPS to address the safety needs of employees working on farms. The focus is on exposure to pesticides, and having access to information around their use and effects. These standards apply whether you are organic, natural grown or conventional. Any use of a product with an Ag Use Requirement label requires WPS training.

For me, compliance wasnít difficult. Annie Macmillan, VT Agency of Agriculture Agrichemical Toxicologist, facilitated the training. She came to a nearby farm, and I watched a DVD with a group of growers. At the end of the session, we were certified as handlers to mix and apply the chemicals we use on the farm. I was also checked out to train my employees in what precautions needed to be taken when working in (weeding, harvesting, watering) an area that had been sprayed. Pretty much what you would expect, but itís always good for me to hear the basics again every once in a while.

Now I have a Central Location where I post information, including the date and Restricted Entry Interval (REI) for each pesticide that applied. I have the directions to the nearest hospital posted as well, in case of emergency. Each worker on the farm watches the DVD with me, and I make sure that everything is understood.

Here in Vermont, access to training was really easy; it even came to us. Each state has its own program, so it will be up to you to find a way to get your training. Hereís the contact info for all the State Pesticide Regulatory Agencies.  They are usually the branch that handles the training. When you call, ask to speak to the WPS coordinator.

This certification was an easy one for me to do, and itís a good one too. I would also rather be on the right side of this one the next time an inspector shows up at my farm.

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