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Investigators looking into pesticide misuse in Missouri Bootheel

The Missouri Farm Bureau says roughly 60 percent of the soybeans grown in the state are sent to China.
The United Soybean Board | Flickr

Missouri agriculture officials are looking into widespread misuse of pesticides in in the Bootheel region.

Judy Grundler is division director for plant industries within the state's Department of Agriculture. She told a state House committee on Thursday that there have been 115 complaints in four counties of pollution caused by pesticides in the past month alone.

"To put that in perspective, typically we receive somewhere between 75 and 80 complaints on pesticide use throughout the state in a single year," she said.

Seventy investigations are open, encompassing nearly 40,000 acres of farmland and more than 400 fields in southeastern Missouri.

"Complaints are coming from damage to soybeans, primarily," Grundler said, "(but) we also see damage in peaches, peanuts, purple hull peas, watermelons, tomatoes, and also some alfalfa."

She presented her findings to the House Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources. She said, though, that she left some details out due to the ongoing investigations.

Meanwhile, one committee member, state Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, said he will file legislation next year that would increase fines for illegal use or misuse of pesticides to $10,000 a field. It is now $1,000 a field. He sees the overuse of pesticides leading to the targeted insects building up resistance.

"If we don't control this type of behavior, then we're going to lose that chemistry sooner (rather) than later," Rone said, "and pretty soon we'll have no chemistry that'll work in a field, and then we'll really have some problems."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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