Oregon Lawsuit Challenges Protection For Farming, Forestry

Aug 14, 2014

A group of Southern Oregon residents who complained pesticide spraying made them sick has now filed a lawsuit in Curry County circuit court. For EarthFix, Tony Schick reports.

John and Barbara Burns. Burns says he felt symptoms similar to a sinus infection he attributes to herbicide exposure.
Credit Amelia Templeton / EarthFix

The plaintiffs are residents of Cedar Valley, a community near Gold Beach that was accidentally sprayed in October by a helicopter applying pesticides to nearby timberland.

The state recently handed down a fine and revoked the company’s license. But resident John Burns says that’s not enough.

Burns: “The state laws in effect have not done anything for us and we have been violated. Our civil and constitutional rights have been violated. Our property, our animals, livelihood, our health. Everything has been violated.”

One thing could be standing in their way: Oregon’s Right to Farm and Forest Act. It shields farmers and foresters from liability for chemical trespass unless the spray happened illegally or caused death or serious injury.

The suit claims the law violates the state’s constitution, which guarantees the right to remedy for injury to person, property or reputation.

Scott Dahlman, an advocate for forestry groups, says removing the protections could open up a floodgate of complaints.

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