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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Farmers Claim BLM Spoiled Their Land

BOISE (CN) - Idaho Farmers say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management damaged their land and crops by spraying a broad-spectrum herbicide on wildfire-scorched rangeland. The herbicide, Oust, is not intended to be used to control weeds on cropland, the farmers say.

The Neibaur Farms say the BLM sprayed the DuPont-made chemical indiscriminately, from land and helicopter, and that it damaged their crops and property and increased their debts.

DuPont is not named as a defendant.

"DuPont has alleged in various correspondence to Idaho governmental officials, to growers and to media that the United States improperly applied Oust and was, in fact, 'off label" in its applications,'" according to the federal complaint.

"Further, DuPont has alleged that the United States also failed to heed the warnings of the Section 3 label, ignored site conditions, and failed to follow legal mandates and its own regulations."

The BLM sprayed the chemical after wildfires left rangeland with virtually no vegetation to prevent soil erosion. The BLM wanted to re-establish native plants and chose Oust as a tool to control invasive weeds. But the Neibaurs say, "Oust is a broad spectrum herbicide intended for the control of many annual and perennial grasses and broadleaf weeds in forests, industrial sites, other, and non-agricultural sites. Oust is not to be used to control weeds on crop land or to be applied to crops."

Oust belongs to a family of herbicides known as sulfonylureas, "which are generally effective at much lower application rates than many other types of herbicides," the complaint states.

Its federal warned: "Treatment of powdery, dry soil or light, sandy soil where there is little likelihood of rainfall soon after treatment may result in off-target movement and possible damage to susceptible crops."

That's precisely the sort of area where the BLM sprayed it, the farmers say, in a semi-arid region with frequent high and gusty winds.

"The United States knew or should have known that, because of the soil conditions on the public lands, the weather and climate conditions in the area, and the properties of Oust, the use of Oust on rangelands posed high risk of harm to plaintiffs' crops. Regardless, the United States proceeded with large-scale Oust applications."

The farms seek damages and special damages for lost crops, property damages, and mitigation expenses. They are represented by Steven Andersen with Holland & Hart.

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