Bob Magee, regional stewardship manager for the North American region for DuPont Crop Protection, shows a chart illustrating best practices for chemical application. Magee stressed the importance of following responsible stewardship practices, from using personal protective equipment to proper disposal of chemical containers and making sure farm chemicals are applied in a manner that is safe for the applicator, as well as the crop and the environment.
Bob Magee, regional stewardship manager for the North American region for DuPont Crop Protection, shows a chart illustrating best practices for chemical application. Magee stressed the importance of following responsible stewardship practices, from using personal protective equipment to proper disposal of chemical containers and making sure farm chemicals are applied in a manner that is safe for the applicator, as well as the crop and the environment.
ROCHELLE, Ill. — Applying farm chemicals, from fungicides to herbicides to pesticides, doesn’t require formal attire.

But there is one ensemble that Bob Magee would prefer not to see — and would prefer that the consuming public not see farmers wearing as they apply farm chemicals to the North American portion of the world’s food supply.

“What’s he wearing here? What’s he dressed in?” Magee, the regional stewardship manager for the North American region for DuPont Crop Protection, asked an audience of DuPont Crop Protection and Pioneer Hybrid representatives along with a group of area farmers.

Magee spoke at a field tour at DuPont’s Midwest Research Farm near Rochelle.

“He’s wearing a Tyvek suit, some sort of vinyl or plastic suit, he’s got a face shield, he’s got the headgear,” Magee said of the figure in the drawing, who also was spraying with a backpack tank.

Wearing a white head-to-toe hazardous materials jumpsuit as one treats a field is not the message Magee wants to send the casual passer-by — who could be on their way to a grocery store.

“This is not really the image we want to be sending about agriculture because 90 percent of the products out there don’t require this,” he said.

Safety Measures

Magee spoke on stewardship and talked about all the elements that make up that term, from choosing proper gloves to proper disposal of containers.

As the concern from the public over where their food comes from and how it is produced has increased, the importance of proper stewardship has grown along with it, Magee said.

“The reason it becomes more and more important about doing those small things right is because we’re increasingly visible to society at large. They are taking an interest in how their food is produced, not just an interest to the point of making sure it’s safe and (U.S. Department of Agriculture) inspections and all of that, but an interest in what products are used on it, what fertilizers are used on it, is it being produced in what they consider a sustainable way?” he said.

While most consumers don’t want to spend the time to learn exactly about how farmers do their jobs on a daily basis, Magee noted they are willing to take the time to lobby for increased regulations.

“With seven billion — nine billion by 2040 — people in the world, how many of those do you think really understand how you do your jobs on a daily basis, what role you play in the food supply? Second, how many of them care to learn?” he said. “The answer is not very many. But they are willing to stick around and talk about regulations and asking us to prove that we do things right.”

Public Image

Magee said that showing the consuming public that various farm practices are not just responsible, but socially acceptable has become a requirement for farmers.

“As much as we may rankle at the thought of someone looking over our shoulder and saying is what you’re doing socially acceptable, it is a fact of what we are going to have to deal with going forward,” he said.

The practices that make up responsible stewardship include those that offer safety and health benefits to the farmer. Far from the spaceman-like Tyvek suit, Magee said that most product applications require items to be found in any farmer’s wardrobe.

“Long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks and gloves, not Tyvek suits. Most of you, dressed as you are, with long-sleeved shirts and gloves, are perfectly fine to spray 90 percent of the products out there, but it’s important that you wear them,” he said.

Glove selection also is important, and that can be solved by reading and following the chemical label instructions.

“Looking at the label, when you sit down in the fall to plan your next year, you know the products you’re going to be using. We always say read the label. I’m going to ask you to read one section of the label especially. I want you to read the ‘directions for use,’ but read those worker protection standards. Make sure you have personal protective equipment for yourself and your employees to apply these products,” Magee said.

Hats Off

Magee, speaking with the hint of a Texas accent, used a well-known piece of apparel from his state to talk about how farmers also can protect themselves.

“Being from Texas, everybody talks about the big, wide-brimmed hats that we wear. We don’t wear them because they’re fashionable — although they do look pretty cool. They do what? They protect from the sun,” he said.

Magee noted that he fell into the practice of wearing his favorite cap everywhere. He said in doing that, he was concentrating his exposure to everything the cap had absorbed.

He said instead of a cap, one option is a cap with a flap that covers the neck and ears, reminiscent of those worn by French Legionnaires.

“That will protect your ears, neck, shoulders,” he said.

The caps with the covering flap also have another benefit for those applying chemicals.

“It’s not extremely fashionable, so I know you won’t be wearing it out to the bars or restaurants. That will probably stay in the truck and be used the next time you spray,” Magee said.