One of the most important presentations most farmers or ag consultants hear during a farm and ranch seminar is the hour spent on Laws and Regulations. It’s training necessary to maintain their pesticide applicator licenses.
The offerings typically include valuable information on legislative changes in pesticide handling regulations, license requirements and health and safety issues.
Unfortunately, it’s often dull stuff and typically scheduled toward the end of the day or just after lunch, right about the time the barbecued brisket and peach cobbler put participants in a less than alert mood. Eyelids droop; attention wanders.
UNLESS the speaker happens to be Don Renchie, Texas AgriLife Extension Program Leader for Agricultural and Environmental Safety.
Renchie seizes the stage and defies the audience to turn its attention elsewhere. He often asks for the dead zone slot immediately following lunch, willingly accepting the challenge to prevent slumberous inattention.
He’s small in stature but his stage presence (and stage is the proper word since this is more theater than lecture) looms large. His presentations include part old time camp meeting, part vaudeville routine, and maybe a pinch or two of medicine wagon hyperbole.
Whatever else it may be, however, Renchie’s take on Laws and Regs is always equal parts information and entertainment. At the recent Ag Technology Conference in Commerce, Texas, Renchie reminded farmers and consultants that they must “remain vigilant, because agriculture is heavily regulated, and you can get in trouble.”
He reminded folks that laws and regulations governing agriculture and especially those concerning pesticides are updated constantly.
He then suggested that everyone put their hands close together and hold them in front of their faces. “That’s the view from inside the jail,” he said. “Look to your right; that’s your cell mate.”
He reminded the audience that it’s illegal to burn pesticide containers, that triple rinsing and pressure washing remains the standard and that you can’t bury pesticide containers in a ditch. Then he reminded them of what it might be like to spend a bit of time behind bars.
He praised development of refillable containers and urged applicators to guard against cross contamination, to prevent spills, to clean containers as soon as possible after emptying into sprayers and to read and follow labels.
He discussed new regulations in the Clean Water Act, which he said “has the potential to encompass more pesticide uses than intended. The new rules bear watching at both the state and federal level.”
He then picked on a young man in the front row who had the audacity (misfortune?) to wear a Texas Longhorn shirt to a meeting populated by Texas A&M supporters.
Renchie reminded the audience that agriculture accounts for only a small amount of the total pesticide use in the nation. Water treatment is the largest by a huge margin, 2.5 billion pounds versus 890 million for all other uses, including agriculture. “More than 70 percent of the pesticide use in Texas has nothing to do with agriculture.”
Through the one-hour presentation, Renchie flashed through a series of slides depicting proper and improper methods of pesticide handling, storage and disposal, interspersed with amusing anecdotes about daughters’ boyfriends and promotional photos of his cattle herd, Beefmaster, he said. He made incredible claims of preposterous weight gains of these bovine behemoths.
Like a revival preacher asking “can I get a witness?” Renchie beseeched the audience to repeat important message points before moving on to either another shot of his amazing cattle herd, a new admonition about allowing boys on your property if you have daughters or a vital piece of information about changes in pesticide laws.
Never dull and always on point—except when he’s engaging in comedic relief—Renchie exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of pesticide regulations and delivers his message in a vibrant 60-minute monologue that rivals the best evangelists, stand-up comedians and orators.
Instead of a presentation to endure, Renchie and his Laws and Regs revue is the main attraction of a day-long conference.