BANGOR, Maine – State regulators struggled Friday to find a way to allow aerial spraying of pesticides on farmland while strengthening rules designed to protect the public from being exposed to the potentially toxic chemicals.

Several homeowners and representatives of Maine’s organic farming community urged the Board of Pesticides Control to move forward with a proposal that, in many cases, would prohibit aerial application of pesticides within 200 feet of homes, buildings and public roads.

The proposed rules, which are still under development, also would rewrite the state’s requirements for when growers must notify neighbors about planned use of pesticides.

“Maximizing profit   should not be allowed to take over the health and well-being of not only residents of this state but also visitors,” Deborah Aldridge, owner of the organic berry farm Hatch Knoll Farm in Jonesboro, told board members during a public hearing.

But numerous growers of blueberries and other crops countered that the existing notification rules have worked well in recent years. The opponents forecast that requiring a buffer between sprayed fields and so-called “sensitive areas,” especially public roads, would harm many smaller farmers.

“The 200-foot buffer would eliminate most of my blueberry fields,” said Molly Sholes, proprietor of Spruce Mountain Blueberries in West Rockport.

The controversy in Maine over aerial spraying of pesticides dates back several decades.

The state passed the first rules intended to address concerns over exposure to pesticide “drift” in the mid-1980s. Those rules have been tweaked several times, and new notification procedures were added.

But this is the first substantial rewrite of the rules undertaken by the Board of Pesticides Control.

Board members on Friday repeatedly pressed speakers for ideas on how to resolve some of the long-running sticking points, such as setting an acceptable level of pesticide drift, but often received few concrete suggestions.

Full Story: