S.C. regulators have fined a Georgia crop duster $1,000 for illegally spraying chemicals at a mega-potato farm in Aiken County.
The fine by Clemson University against McMillan Custom Service, of Waynesboro, Ga., follows complaints last year by Aiken County residents about chemicals drifting from a plane being used to spray mega-farms in the Windsor area.
McMillan, or someone the company supervised, sprayed chemicals during windy conditions, which is not allowed under state law, according to records released this week by Clemson, which regulates crop dusting. The McMillan crop-dusting operation also is responsible for allowing a pesticide to drift onto a person’s vehicle near the potato farm, also a violation of state law, records show.
Robert H. McMillan Jr. said his company was sanctioned for a “technicality.”
“In 45 years of flying and millions of acres, this is the first time I have ever been fined or charged” in South Carolina, McMillan said in an email Wednesday to The State.
The crop-dusting company considered appealing the fine but later agreed to pay it, said Michael Weyman, a deputy director at Clemson’s division of regulatory services.
Clemson says the dusting violated South Carolina’s pesticide-control act. According to Clemson, the incidents occurred near several Walther Farms potato fields last May. Walther hired McMillan to spray the company’s potato fields, records show.
In one instance, investigators conducted tests of material found on a truck near a farm field, determining the substance was the same kind of pesticide used during the spraying. In two other instances, investigators said wind speeds were too strong for spraying, records show.
McMillan said the wind speeds were only 1-2 miles per hour higher than allowed, but added he is ready to put the matter behind him. “We look forward to a healthy 2018 and serving the farmers of South Carolina and protecting all agricultural crops.”
The fine against McMillan is the first stemming from complaints last year about crop-dusting operations in the area. Clemson previously dismissed at least three other complaints, including one involving crop dusting near a Windsor-area school, records show.
State Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, has introduced legislation to limit aerial spraying in the vicinity of schools while they are in session.
Concerns about crop-dusting activities are among several issues raised by residents who live near mega-farms in eastern Aiken County. Out-of-state agribusinesses moved into the area about five years ago, acquiring some 10,000 acres and clearing forests to grow crops on farms that dwarf the average-sized S.C. farm, The State reported last year.
Residents also have complained about the amount of water that the mega-farms use for irrigation and the farms’ efforts to close some public roads.
The farm corporations say they are trying to be good neighbors.