Daily News Archive

Maine Town In A Fight Over Spraying Ban
(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2003) Addison, Maine is the battleground of a controversy between residents opposed to the aerial application of pesticides to blueberries and chemical-intensive blueberry farmers. The town's residents will confront challenges to an ordinance banning the spraying of pesticides on blueberries in a July 29 special town meeting.

After a March 11 town meeting in which the town's residents passed a ban on blueberry spraying by a vote of 86-58, State Agriculture Commissioner Robert Spear now claims that the ordinance violates the state's Right-to-Farm Law of 1981. In an April 10 letter to the town's residents, Spear maintains that the ordinance is incompatible with the law because it prevents farmers from following so-called "best management practices," which are determined by the Department of Agriculture.

The ordinance was written by Parris S. Hammond Sr., a farmer who has successfully recovered from lung cancer. Hammond blames aerial pesticide spraying on blueberries as the cause of his health damages.

Another challenge to the ordinance is being brought by Maine blueberry farmers concerned that a ban on spraying would result in large economic losses. But according to Hammond, citizens have no reason to trust these farmers to protect public safety: "[Blueberry farmers] have had free rein ever since they started. I don't think it's their right to decide our fate. It's like an out-of-sight, out-of-mind deal with these chemicals. People think if you can't see it you're safe, but that's not true."

Two pesticides that are commonly used on blueberries, chlorothalonil and diuron, pose possible cancer risks to those who come in contact with them.

Town bans on pesticide uses are far from being a rarity in Maine. In fact, Maine officials report that 20 other Maine towns have local ordinances to limit pesticide use, including bans on aerial pesticide application in Coplin Plantation, Lebanon, and New Sweden.

The town's ban has energized local grassroots organizations to lobby for the maintenance of the public safety measure. These organizations include: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the Maine Farm Bureau, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, the Toxics Action Center, and the Clean Water Coalition.