Spray Drift Education Network

Spray Drift Network

You are driving down the road and you spot the all too familiar yellow plane.  You turn your head left and right looking for something to indicate if the wind is blowing toward you - a tree, flag, grass in the ditches.  You realize it is, and you quickly turn off your air conditioner, roll up any windows and hope you don't smell that familiar chemical odor waft into your car.  But it's too late.  The unknown pesticide from the plane has been picked up in the air and you are inundated with a most alarming chemical smell in your car.  You may be working in your garden, you notice a spray rig upwind of you.  Surely he will not spray today when the wind is blowing so strong and right at our house and garden?  But with no warning, the rig stretches out its booms, revs up, and an unknown mist emerges from the spray nozzles.  You see the dust blowing and you smell something not quite right.  Your time outside is over as you retreat into the house until the rig is done.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Situations like these happen over and over across Illinois every year during agricultural spray season.   These are pesticide drift incidents and they are in violation of the Illinois Pesticide Act.  Unfortunately, most of these pesticide drift incidents go unreported.  The Illinois Department of Agriculture receives around 100 pesticide complaints per year.   This low number of complaints leads the IDOA to believe a pesticide drift problem does not exist.  This is not true.

The Spray Drift Education Network (SDEN) is a grass roots organization formed by Brian and Anita Poeppel of Broad Branch Farm and Jane Heim of Willow Creek Organic Farm in response to the lack of pesticide incident complaints filed with the IDOA.  Enforcement of the Illinois Pesticide Act will not be realized until the pesticide drift problem is proven through the increase in the number of reported incidents.  The goal of the SDEN is to help folks recognize and report all pesticide drift incidents and work to eliminate pesticide drift. 

If you are not willing to remain downwind of a chemical application, you need to file your complaint whether you are on your property or not.   It is the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Agriculture to regulate and protect citizens from pesticide drift.  Make a commitment to file your complaint(s) this year and protect all of us - property owners, parents, organic growers - from this long standing problem of pesticide drift. Information is available at

– by Wes King

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