Minnesota Court Says Drifting Pesticides Are Trespassing


In a move that signals support for Minnesota’s organic farmers, a Court of Appeals ruled on July 25th that pesticides drifting onto a neighbor’s organic fields are trespassing. The suit was brought by Oluf and Debra Johnson. They charged Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company with ruining the organic designation of part of their fields by spraying on windy days. The affected fields had to be taken out of organic production for three years.

The Johnsons made the shift to organic in the mid-1990s because of higher prices for organic crops and seeds. According to the St. Cloud Times, “They posted signs noting that the farm was organic, created a buffer between their property and neighboring farms and asked the co-op to take precautions to avoid overspraying.”

This was not the first time the Johnsons had attempted to stop the pesticide drift. The co-op was cited by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture four times between 1998 and 2008 for damaging the Johnsons’ organic crops, causing them to sell their harvest at a lower price and take fields out of production. When the Johnsons sued, their district court dismissed the claims, stating particulate matter could not trespass.

Judge Ross of the Minnesota Court of Appeals saw the matter differently. Though agreeing Minnesota had no such laws, he cited rulings in other states. The case will now go back to the district court, where the Johnsons can claim losses caused by contamination of their fields.

Related Care2 Stories:

Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto over GM Seed

What Does the USDA Organic Label Really Mean?

Photo credit: Mary K. Baird via morgueFile


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener7 years ago

That is what they tend to do... go organic!

Melinda K.
Past Member 7 years ago

thanks for the article

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lin Moy
Lin M7 years ago

read this

Kristen S.
Kristen H7 years ago

If it's dangerous to spray around/near farm WORKERs, then they can't spray near organics either. In FL and other rural, farming states, farmers have to advise day care centers, schools and residential areas about when they are going to spray, so that people can stay indoors on those days and avoid getting poisoned. If it's windy and the wind would carry the pesticide into those sensitive areas, they cannot proceed.

If law can protect children and families, it can protect organic farmers.

Is this going to be the new-age fences vs free-ranges fight? I sure hope not. That one got real ugly, back in the 1800s.

Laura K.
Laura Kornak7 years ago

Hopefully someone will learn something from this. Especially the corporation that did the spraying!

Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T7 years ago

Will they clean up their pesticides that contaminated everything is site,including the air we all breathe? Our poor earth..
Thanks for the info...

Shalvah Landy
Past Member 7 years ago

Every case helps, more public awareness! More action, more results!

Janine H.
Janine H7 years ago

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." (Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)