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MINNEAPOLIS — The cloud of insecticide that drifted from a neighbor's corn field onto the asparagus on Andrew and Melissa Dunham's central Iowa farm cast a shadow over their organic vegetable business.

They say the costs from the incident and resulting loss of organic certification on their asparagus patch for three years will reach about $74,000, and they're now working with the sprayer's insurance company.

"We're a certified organic farm — except for our asparagus," Melissa Dunham lamented.

Pesticide drift is a serious concern for organic farmers and they've come up with several defenses, such as buffer strips. Twelve states are part of a registry of farms that tips off aerial and ground sprayers to areas they need to avoid. The aerial spraying industry and pesticide manufacturers, meanwhile, say they've made big strides in controlling drift through pilot education and new technologies.

Organic and specialty crop growers are trying to profit off the rising consumer interest in locally grown, natural foods. But those smaller farms are often islands surrounded by a sea of conventionally grown crops that get sprayed with herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.


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