As an organic producer, you can use certain pesticides on your farm. However, using the wrong pesticide, or using the right pesticide incorrectly can be a costly and time-intensive mistake. Worst case scenario, you could even lose your organic certification standing. That said, be sure to play it safe by keeping the following tips in mind, before you decide to use a pesticide on the farm.
- Allowed pesticides aren't trouble-free: Pesticides, even safer pesticides, often still represent some harm to the environment and are controversial to boot. Many studies show that "safe" or allowed pesticides can cause harm due to their less toxic nature, because they don't work as well as tougher synthetic pesticides, thus must be applied more often, in turn, building up. Frequent applications of safer pesticides also increases your financial burden. Lastly, some purist organic advocates don't agree with any pesticide use, so it may create a debate with peers or consumers if you're on board. This isn't to say you should shun pesticides if you really decide you need them, but do keep in mind that even safer pesticides may pose some unwanted problems for your operation.
- Can you use another method?: Maybe another method, such as double cropping, effective cultivation, integrated pest management or another natural approach to manage pests, weeds, and diseases will work for you. It's smart to attempt the least evasive production methods first and pesticides second.
- Very few pesticides can be used: NOP policy allows organic producers to use a very limited number of pesticides. Make sure you know which pesticides are allowed and which are not.
- You must use the pesticide correctly: Just because a pesticide is allowed on the National List, doesn't mean you can use it however you choose. Some pesticides are only allowed to be used very specifically. For example, Oregon Tilth points out that hydrated lime can be used for disease control, but not as a soil amendment. You have to make sure any pesticide you use is allowed for the your intended use.
- Pesticides belong in your OSP: If you choose to use a pesticide, you must include that choice in your Organic System Plan (OSP) and when you use the pesticide, it's got to be consistent with what you wrote in your OSP.
- Documentation matters: If you use a pesticide, be sure to keep any and all documentation surrounding that pesticide, including use reports and purchasing documents. Keep in mind that all of your documents regarding pesticide use must be available for inspection should your agent ask.
- Talk to your agent: Researching pesticides on your own is fine, but your best source of information about what you should and shouldn't be doing on your organic farm, often comes right from your accredited certifying agent. Your agent is there to help you out and to answer questions, so running pesticide use by said agent is always wise.