Perspectives Online

Buhler's record book is national model

What started out as an effort to help North Carolina pesticide applicators keep accurate records has turned into a national best seller. The 80-page record book, developed by College horticulture Extension specialist Wayne Buhler, has been adopted as the standard by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Buhler developed a record book several years ago to help pesticide applicators keep records that were first required in the 1990 Farm Bill.

Under the successive Farm Bill, private applicators - growers who use restricted-use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity - must keep records on pesticide use for two years. The rule applies to restricted-use pesticides, those that can be harmful or risky for applicators or can cause environmental damage if not applied properly.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency requires pesticide applicators to maintain records and post appropriate warnings to field workers when pesticides are applied to crops. That means another set of records for growers to keep track of.

The Pesticide Section within the Food and Drug Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is charged with enforcing the USDA regulations in North Carolina. Buhler, along with a broad network of Cooperative Extension agents and colleagues within the Pesticides Section, conducts training for the state's 22,000 certified pesticide applicators. Part of the training is how to meet the federal record-keeping guidelines.

"Growers were aware of the regulations, but had no standard or reliable way to keep records," Buhler said.

So Buhler worked with the Pesticide Section to develop an easy-to-use record book for North Carolina growers. The front of the book includes phone numbers for the National Poison Control Center, and other important contacts related to pesticides.

The record book Buhler developed includes forms that meet both the USDA and EPA record requirements for pesticide application. And it meets another grower requirement: It can be carried to the fields.

In North Carolina, pesticide education and NCDA&CS funds were used to print the books. First 5,000 copies were printed in 1999; then 15,000 copies were distributed free to growers. The project was so successful that USDA began printing an adapted version of the record book in 2002. The first year, USDA printed 22,000 copies, then 25,000 copies. In 2004, 70,000 copies were printed. Due to the high cost of printing, the record book is no longer printed, but is available to growers on the Web at http://www.ams.usda.gov/science/prb/Prbforms.htm

In May, Buhler obtained a grant from the NCDA&CS Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund to print an additional 13,000 copies of the manual that will be distributed to North Carolina growers who participate in two-hour trainings this winter.

The project, Buhler said, gives growers a tangible tool to avoid fines for poor record-keeping - a first offense can bring a fine of $650, and a second offense, $1,100. The record book can also help them keep an inventory of the pesticides they purchase and store and help them look for application mistakes that can be the cause of a crop's failure.

- Natalie Hampton