Improved pesticide safety education should reduce accidental exposure to workers and applicators, reduce adverse environmental impacts from pesticide use and create greater applicator awareness of the benefits and risks of product use.

With those goals in mind the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services contributed more than $128,000 toward creation of a Southern Regional Pesticide Safety Education Center at North Carolina State University.

Eleven other states, including Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Florida will also cooperate in this regional effort.

"I have a feeling that this check for $128,340 from the Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund will go a long way toward improving the relationship between agriculture, pesticides and the environment," says North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Graham. The PETF is funded through fees paid by companies to register pesticides for sale in the state. Other PETF grants have helped improve pesticide container recycling, agromedicine research and drift reduction management.

"Pesticide use is a controversial issue. But it is also one that helps insure the world has enough food for healthy well-balanced diets, enough cotton for warm comfortable clothing, and enough quality timber to build sound homes," Graham says. "This will be the first center anywhere dedicated solely to reducing the environmental risks associated with pesticides. Hopefully, with this seed money, we have insured that more centers will begin to sprout all over the country. Our partnership with North Carolina State University on this project is another example of the commitment we have made to do whatever it takes to lessen the environmental risks associated with pesticide applications."

Wayne G. Buhler, pesticide education specialist with NCSU's Department of Horticultural Sciences, is the PSED project director. He says the PSED will provide train-the-trainer courses for pesticide inspectors and county agents that provide pesticide safety education to their clients.

Since the PETF is funding the pilot program, the majority of participants will be from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and NCDA&CS. Training will consist of an on-line Internet phase followed by a one-week, hands-on resident phase at North Carolina State University.

"When we focus on improving pesticide safety, education and training, the results benefit growers and the consumers who depend on North Carolina food products," Graham says.

For more information on the PSED, contact Jim Burnette Jr., administrator, Pesticide Section, Food and Drug Protection Division, NCDA&CS 919-733-3556.