2-4D Drift, farmer doesn't care, ag officials protect him

Bear with me here, the punchline is PERSIMMONS
After 2 years of 2-4D drift, from fields rented by a local farm family, I am furious. Are there any laws with teeth in them? I thought last year he’d just done it because the ragwort had gotten so thick and laughed off his roundup. I called the county agent, who tried to tell me that it could have been from anywhere, and also that because EVERYONE sprays it, no one is at fault. But he did call the farmer in question, and it was 2-4D.
This year he did it again, so I called the county agent again, who called the farmer and found out it was 2-4D again. I called the state, and they sent out the guy who checks out spray damage. He agreed that the whole edge of the forest was devastated for the third of a mile to our property. But he insisted my tomato plants looked fine. I didn’t think so. Two weeks later my tomato plants were all distorted. I actually took the ones I hadn’t planted to a county agent, even though the ones in the ground were beginning to grow out of it. He told me “they look great!”
I said, “They look like they will recover.” No matter how I worded it, I could not get him to admit that any bad thing had happened to my tomato plants. So now 2 experts have said our plants all look fine.

All of this has been informal, by phone or in person, with nothing in writing. So next I submit a formal request for investigation in writing. That family is farming thousands of acres, surrounded by forests, streams, homes. And I’m sure they are going to do it again next year. This year they sprayed 4/11. Last year my photographs on my phone are dated July 27, which implies he sprayed in late June. You aren’t supposed to spray 2-4D so late in the year.
Anyone have any ideas? I should go around other fields they farms, photograph more damage.

So as I’m looking at the damage to trees on our property, just oaks and dogwoods, etc, trees that seem to really show it, I suddenly notice that apart from the twisted leaves on my grafted persimmons, they all have dead twigs. Now I’m REALLY upset! . We are talking 15-20 year old trees.


Are these planted persimmons or wild persimmons? If they are planted ones, the pesticide inspector should be taking that more seriously. Wild ones, eh, they probably are not.
I would follow up with the pesticide inspector. There should be some way that you can make a formal complaint, especially if you do have crop damage.

If that farmer is renting property, you might contact who he is renting the property from and mention your problem.


@thecityman has had the same experience and is also in TN. Maybe he can help you. Meanwhile here’s one of his posts: Neighbor let herbicide spray drift onto me for 3rd time : Big Correction! - General Fruit Growing - Growing Fruit


Hi Donna. As @Fruitnut mentioned, I have had lots of experience with your problem, and right here in TN!!! But my situation- at least when it comes to the state- was ENTIRELY different from yours.

The thread posted above is a minor one… The thread I really want you to read which sort of chronicles my whole experience from the moment I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my trees (turned out to be 2, 4-D) all the way up to resolution can be found here:

the title of the thread is because I started off just wondering why my pears had this accelerated, but twisted growth.

The main thing I want to convey to you is that my experience with the state folks was totally different from yours. Yours sounds like what I was expecting, and what usually happens in government, especially when its a “little guy” complaining about a “big guy”. And my case was just like yours in that regard as well…I am a 6 acre hobby grower and the man who sprayed me is a massive-scale farmer from a family of massive scale farmers with a long history and a lot of power. So I expected to be blown off…but it was the opposite. Its one of the few times I HAVE been impressed with state government!

I did however, take a different approach which I believe made all the difference. It turns out that I am a City Manager and have worked my whole life in government, so I took an approach that time and experience has taught me is helpful. What I did is called my state senator first and asked for the number of the Dept of Ag people who oversee spray drift and other pesticide issues. I didn’t call him because I have any power (I don’t) or because I thought he would be especially helpful (I didn’t) but so I could use his name. I then called the supervisor of the drift spray state employee, and I told him "I talked to Senator XYZ today about a spray problem I have. He was upset about it and gave me your phone number and said you would help me with this. I wasn’t lying- I did speak to the Senator for about 45 seconds before he transferred me to his staff who I’m sure looked up the name and number from the internet as I could have done. So yes, I was bluffing (but not lying) when I asked like I had a personal relationship with the senator and that he was angry and would be following my case! ha. So the supervisor took me seriously and told me he was going to give me the number of his “best” spray person. By the time I got to her, she new a senator and her boss were involved in this, she probably figured I had a good deal of clout/power to get them involved (I didn’t), and she therefore took it serious. Whether it was my little trick or just good luck I don’t know, but I got a good spray person Iit was a woman, btw) who did a great job on my case.

I have 3 different farmers who spray 3 different sides of my property, so if ever there was a case where the state lady could have just said we can’t tell who drifted it would have been my case, but she didn’t do that.

This woman actually did interviews with not just the 3 farmers who join me, but also about 3 others who spray land not too far from me. She got all the dates that they sprayed, she pulled wind weather reports for all those days to see how much wind there was. She went to 5 or 6 different farmers and pulled samples from their tanks. She picked leaves off of about 50 of my trees, and sent all that to the lab and asked them to compare the residue on my leaves to what came out of each tank she took samples from. Using this and other things, she eventually determined which farmer had sprayed me. She filed a GIANT report on everything she did and everything her investigation uncovered and so on. SHe presented all of this to some kind of hearing board at the TN Dept of Ag., They found the farmer guilty. Better still they fined him fairly hard (I want to say $1,000 but can’t swear to the amount now) and they made him drive to nashville 2-3 days to take a long class in how to properly spray. They also gave him some kind of probation that said if he did this again, he would be fined $10k AND would loose his right to spray chemicals, meaning he would have to bring in some outside company everytime he sprayed anything- which I’m sure would be extremely expensive.

Of course the neighbor got mad at me for reporting him and getting him in trouble so he had to take a class, pay a fine, and be on “spray probation”. Funny how he killed and permanently damaged a bunch of my trees by carelessly spraying with too small droplet size and too much wind…but he was mad at ME!!! It was awkward because the uncle of the man who sprayed is the Mayor of the town where I am the City Manager, meaning he was kind-of my boss!!! ha.

Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve had such bad results from the state Ag folks when I had such good ones- whatever the reason. I am middle TN region, btw, so that might also account for differences. Anyway, if you have other questions, I’ll be glad to tell you more or try to answer them. Good luck!


Thank you all for your replies. There are 3 persimmon trees involved, all 3 wild trees I grafted some 15 years ago. One is still pretty small, only about 8 ft, with small crops. The others are 20 ft tall, one crops heavily. Each of them are beside garden areas. So they aren’t wild trees out in a field.
The land owner won’t care what the farmer does.

1 Like

Thank you for your response Cityman. Your approach was extremely clever! I’ve been thinking I should call Paul Bailey’s office to see what they had to say, but I would NEVER have thought of such a clever way to approach it. I’m in White co.

The differences in circumstances are these:

There is only one potential culprit, and the nearest edge of the rented fields to the near edge of our property is 1/3 mile, 700 yards away. By the time it drifts to the last of my persimmons, the 2-4D has drifted a half mile, and still distorted leaves. To me, that seems like proof that the farmer is not competent to do that job.

He hasn’t actually killed anything on our property yet, but that’s only because his field is so far away. Well, I dunno, he hasn’t killed any trees right beside that field. I don’t know how many years they can survive it, but this the 2nd year he’s sprayed late and had a lot of drift.

What I have had so far is damage to my garden crops, and delayed or reduced crops, and leaf damage to grafted trees that looks like it may explain a lot of dead twigs. My apple and peach trees mostly don’t show leaf damage, but probably only because of slow growth.

1 Like

Your best bet is small claim court. Depending on your jurisdiction the limit is something like $5k to $10k in damages but it is a DIY court that doesn’t require (or allow) lawyers. Even if you win you then have the issue of actually collecting but it would be a start in the right direction.

The first step is to quantify your damages. The court would only award actual, realistic damages such as (realistic) replacement costs. Heck I would establish some realistic damages by planting a test line of apple trees and the like; if they get killed it is easy to establish the replacement cost of the trees, which would be higher than when they were smaller a year prior.

Ideally you would have the damaged plant material tested at a lab. That will cost you, but it would cost you less than putting up with the seasonal damage. Once they get hit time is of the essence; you may see the damage for years in the twisted growth but 2,4-d degrades quickly over time.

1 Like

I feel for you. I think maybe I am just a hot head. But my next move would be to get 10ft of surgical hose stretched between two fence posts and launch water balloons full of piss at the neighbor every time I saw him. Right between the eyes. What an f…er.

1 Like