What to expect when filing a pesticide complaint with MDARD

All Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development pesticide complaint cases are handled on a case-by-case basis, but the overall process is similar.

If you suspect a certified pesticide applicator misused or misapplied a chemical, especially if your crop was affected, you may want to consider contacting the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) pesticide complaint office. When MDARD receives a complaint, they make every effort to contact you within 24 hours. They may simply talk to you over the phone first or schedule a visit, depending on the circumstances.

Chemical burn
Leaf distortion and marginal necrosis caused by herbicide drift.  Photo credit: Kristin Getter, MSU

MDARD requires all certified pesticide applicators to keep detailed records of what, when and where they applied chemicals, and make those records available to MDARD upon request. When investigating your complaint, MDARD may contact the person or company that applied the chemical to get their records. MDARD will also look at historical weather records for the day and time in question (wind speeds, temperatures, etc.). In the case of non-target chemical drift, MDARD may want to collect affected plant tissue samples and send it off for lab testing – at no cost to you. For this reason, it is advisable to file a complaint as soon as it happens, as some chemicals will only be detectable on plant tissue for a few days and that is one concrete way to provide evidence that drift did occur.

The time it takes for MDARD to determine if there was a violation to state or federal pesticide laws varies on a case-by-case basis. For instance, current caseload, how urgent the matter is (human health exposure is a higher priority than property damage) and lab testing durations all play a role in how long it takes for MDARD to issue a final ruling (disposition letter). The disposition letter will be mailed to you and indicates if MDARD found a violation of the law and what, if any, enforcement actions will take place against the other party.

However, MDARD does not have the legal authority to help you get restitution. Restitution is a civil matter that is to be dealt with between the two parties (by working out an agreement together, through insurance companies or in civil court). However, having an MDARD disposition letter that indicates a violation did occur may be all you need to get the other party – or their insurance company – to pay without involving an attorney.

You may file a complaint by either calling 1-800-292-3939 or submitting a pesticide complaint form online. When calling in a complaint, be sure to tell the operator it is for a pesticide complaint so that you are routed to the appropriate office. You can also choose to file a complaint anonymously, but that may impede MDARD’s ability to do a thorough investigation.

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