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Ag environmentalist discusses pesticide, regulatory issues at South Texas Farm and Ranch Show

By ALLISON MILES
Oct. 28, 2010 at 5:28 a.m.

The latest model tractors on display at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show dwarf area farmer and rancher August Janak. The equipment was on display at the Farm and Ranch show.

MORE INFOTo learn more about issues affecting agriculturists, contact Victoria County's Texas AgriLife Extension office at 361-575-4581.

Agriculture has changed over time and will continue to change in the future, Don Renchie said. The key is to stay on top of things.

"How often are laws and regulations updated?" he asked. "Constantly."

Renchie presented "The Watch Ain't Over: We Still Need To Be Vigilant" Thursday at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show luncheon. There, he discussed pesticide and environmental regulatory issues that affect Texas agribusinesses.

Renchie is an extension program leader for ag and environmental safety for the Texas AgriLife Extension Agency in College Station.

A new federal rule became effective in 2009 that sets standards for pesticide containers and containment, he said. The rule dictates that containers holding pesticides should be cleaned promptly after they are emptied, either through triple rinsing or pressure rinsing.

The goal is to make sure containers are durable and to minimize human exposure when handling them, but, regardless of the cleaning method, the Environmental Protection Agency still says the containers will only be 99.9 percent clean, Renchie said.

A good way to safely and legally get around the issue is to invest in refillable containers, he said, explaining it cuts down on the waste and means residue inside the containers is not illegal.

Another pending regulatory issue involves the Clean Water Act, enforced by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Through the program, which Renchie said bears watching at the federal and state level, farmers and ranchers must have a permit before spraying insecticides to handle mosquito larvae and the like around water.

The act has the potential to encompass more pesticide users than originally intended, he explained.

Edna resident Linda Kallus said Renchie's presentation had her rethinking the way she disposes of chemicals. Her husband farms and ranches, she explained.

"We have little kids nearby," she said. "We might start doing some things differently."

Jimmy Miller, who also attended the event, said he thought Renchie's message was an important one to get out there.

Many people break the law by accident, simply because they don't know the proper way to handle certain substances. Others know, but disregard the rules.

"Not knowing is bad enough," said Miller, who works at Tractor Supply Company. "If you do know, and you still do it, that's even worse."

Renchie encouraged people to take a look at the candidates running for office this election season and make sure they understand agricultural issues. He advised farmers and ranchers themselves to make sure they are perceived as informed agriculturists, rather than anti-environmentalist.

"Be perceived as an individual who wants to share correct information with the uninformed, non-regulated community," he said. "Just saying that we're the stewards of the land is not enough."

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