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Farmers gather waste chemicals for disposal
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Environmentally conscious producers in Panola County got more than 13 tons of waste pesticide off their farms during a one-day collection in March.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service partnered with the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce to offer the Agricultural Pesticide Disposal Program to area producers March 22 in Batesville. A grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality covered the cost of disposal.
"The Agricultural Pesticide Disposal Program is a continuing success story because it gives a way to maintain a safe rural environment for farmers and citizens," said Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell.
Mississippi does not have a hazardous waste disposal facility, so waste agricultural chemicals accumulate in storage on farms. In 1993, the Legislature's Waste Pesticide Disposal Act created a program for farmers and pesticide applicators to get rid of waste pesticides in a legal and environmentally responsible manner.
Jimmy Bonner, MSU Extension Service agricultural and biological engineer, said 1.126 million pounds of waste pesticide have been removed from farms since collection began in 1994.
"The program has delivered a direct savings to farmers and applicators of more than $1.258 million in terms of disposal costs," Bonner said. "Individually, farmers and applicators just do not have the financial resources to defray the cost of hazardous waste disposal."
More than 1,100 producers have participated in the 50 collections held to date.
Judd Gentry, Panola County Extension director, said chemicals stack up on farms because producers have no way to get rid of waste chemicals.
"With new technology like Bt cotton and Roundup Ready crops, a lot of the products are not being used like before," Gentry said. "Farmers who used to use these chemicals now have no way of getting rid of them."
According to the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce's Bureau of Plant Industry, waste pesticides are defined as pesticides that either have cancelled or suspended registrations, or are unwanted, unusable or production leftovers. This includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and plant growth regulators. The products are legally classified as hazardous waste materials and must be disposed of by a licensed hazardous waste contractor at a licensed hazardous waste disposal facility.
Gentry said the March waste collection was the second one his county has had, the first being 10 years ago. Producers, he said, were eager to participate and began calling him for details once the collection site was announced.
Producers have no other safe option than to store waste chemicals until a collection is made. The substances are illegal to dump and would have a negative impact on the environment because they can contaminate the groundwater, and harm humans and plant and animal life.