by David Unze

The state Court of Appeals ruled Monday that pesticide drifting from its intended farm onto an adjacent Stearns County organic farm could be considered a trespassing violation by the company that sprayed the pesticide.

The appellate court ruling reinstates a lawsuit filed by organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson against Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Co. The Johnsons alleged that the co-op’s crop spraying of nearby farms on windy days caused the pesticide to drift onto their organic crops and damage them, preventing the Johnsons from selling those crops as organic. The Johnsons also had to take parts of their fields out of production for three years because of the presence of the unwanted pesticide.

The Stearns County case is the first time in Minnesota that an appellate court has been asked to decide whether “unwanted pesticide drift from a targeted field to an adjacent otherwise organic farming operation can constitute a trespass,” according to the Court of Appeals opinion. “We hold that it can.”

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