School anti-pesticide drive is everyone's fight in nation

Just before Allen James flew to Reno for CAPCA's annual conference, he was in the Northeast in his job as president of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE).

RISE acts on behalf of the urban pest control industry much like the American Crop Protection Association serves American agriculture.

School administrators from New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut cornered James desperate for answers to the insects that are overrunning their schools as a result of reduced pesticide use brought on by anti-pesticide activists.

Those three states along with California have the most onerous regulations governing school pesticide use.

The anti-pesticide advocacy groups have obviously found an area where they can easily exploit their cause, even though surveys indicate parents are more concerned about their children's personal safety in school than pesticide use.

“We have tried to work with them, but they refuse to accept anything short of a ban on pesticide use in schools,” he said.

PCAs and farmers have enough to battle in their own arena, why should school pesticide use concern production agriculture? Because it is a battle agriculture must join to ensure victory.

Foremost, it involves public health — not from pesticide use, but from the inability to rely on pesticides.

And secondly, it is an opportunity to demonstrate to the urban public the importance of judicious pesticide use in an environment they understand.

Urban pest control professionals charged with keeping pests and rodents out food serving businesses and school have Herculean tasks.

Can you imagine the challenge of controlling roaches, ants, rodents and other pests in an elementary school where 1,000 children are served hundreds — maybe thousands — of meals weekly, where there is food in every room in a building, where discarded food garbage totals into the tons each week. You think you are challenged by lygus bugs in cotton or worms in tomato fields?

The urban pest control professionals practices IPM perhaps more fervently than their agricultural counterparts because pesticides are simply ineffective alone. Every urban PCA I have ever interviewed said pest management begins with sanitation and exclusion tactics. These people spend more time investigating, trapping and excluding food sources for pests than they do applying pesticides.

How can farmers and agricultural pest management professionals help? Talk to your local school administrators and tell them you support pesticide use. Find who services your local school and offer your moral and public relations support to that business. Tell the owner or manager of your favorite restaurant that you appreciate his efforts to operate a pest-free establishment and that you support pesticide use.

This anti-pesticide movement in our public schools is a movement that must be stopped. It endangers public health. It's also an opportunity to clearly demonstrate the value of pesticides and pest management to an audience production agriculture now has difficulty reaching.

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