The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (M.D.A.) collects unwanted or unused pesticides in 31 Minnesota counties, a program which has been around since 1990. Since this time, the M.D.A. has collected over 5.25 million pounds of these materials around the state.
“It's a danger to the environment, they're very toxic,” M.D.A. Agricultural Chemical Consultant Stan Kaminski said.
Thursday, the M.D.A. stopped at the Houston County Fairgrounds in Caledonia—and Houston County has disposed fewer pesticides than usual. “Many of the farmers that come in have made the comment 'what else would I have done with this old pesticide,'” Kaminski said. “Some of the pesticides are extremely toxic and although they certainly do a good job on the pests, after a certain amount of time, it becomes more unusable.”
The M.D.A. colllects the materials and gets rid of it in a safe manner. “They are handled in special cases, then transported to an incinerator,” Kaminski said. “This is a special incinerator that burns them up at high temperatures and they're completely gone. That's the last we see of them.”
Kaminski said in each county, they collect anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 pounds of materials, or between five and 15 drums (each drum can hold roughly 200 pounds of materials). Rick Frank, Houston County Environmental Services Director, said during the first years of the program, the M.D.A. probably taking in between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds from Houston County per year—much higher than the 400 pounds which the M.D.A.collected on Thursday.
“Farmers are more aware of the amount of material they put on, and a lot of them have been going commercial,” Frank said. “They don't have the equipment or don't want to put the chemicals on themselves. It's probably cheaper in their best interest to use a commercial avenue rather than privately put it on."
Kaminski said with improving numbers in Houston County, it proves they've collected fewer materials over time throughout the state—a good sign that the program is working.
The M.D.A is collecting pesticides in Ramsey and Hennepin counties within the next two weeks to wrap up the year.
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