Ohio’s crop dusters reflect on good year in the air, on the ground

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest It’s the time of year when industry groups come together to celebrate accomplishments, reflect on the past, and look ahead to the future. Aerial applicators, more often known as crop dusters, did just that in Long Beach, Calif. earlier this month.“We’re always looking to stay on the cutting edge of things,” said Brian Gibbs, Ohio crop duster with Gibbs Aero Spray.Gibbs serves the northern portion of the state and deals heavily with vegetable crops. He said it’s good to keep with the latest updates, especially in the hi-tech industry that is agricultural aviation.“It’s good to talk to people here. I’ve got friends from Louisiana to California to the Midwest. Everybody does things a little bit different and it’s neat to hear everyone’s input. It really helps us to stay on the cutting edge of things just by hearing what other people are doing and what’s worked for them and what chemicals and fungicides had benefitted their farmers.”Gibbs also finds the annual convention a good time to reflect on the past year.“We had another safe, productive season. I think everybody was real happy and actually surprised on how well things ended up turning out. Soybean yields were better across the board than people expected and I think corn was off a little bit, but not as bad what people feared,” he said. “Our acres were probably about average to what they normally are. Corn fungicide was a little slower because of the dry spell we had through the middle of summer, but we treated quite a few acres of soybeans. Obviously the cover crop deal was big again this year so all in all, I think it was a good year. I’d take more of them this way every year.”The nationwide organization for ag pilots, the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), is celebrating a milestone as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their organization.“NAAA is basically our nationwide representation for aerial applicators,” Gibbs said. “They do anything from lobbying in Washington for regulations and different things coming down the pipe to basically just providing a storefront for these guys to get together and display their products and get everybody in the same room so we can talk and ask questions.“It’s a lot like what the farmers do with Farm Science Review. It’s exactly that same setup. Here at the convention hall today, I can see three airplanes and a helicopter from where I’m standing,” he said.The NAAA, founded in 1966, represents approximately 1,900 members in 46 states. Ohio has a unique connection to the agricultural aviation industry, being the birthplace of crop dusting after the treatment of caterpillar infestation by airplane near Troy, Ohio in 1921.As with any lobbying organization, the NAAA is heavily involved in legislative issues. Farmers may think they have it bad when dealing with regulations, but compared with the regulatory hurdles of a hi-powered aircraft loaded with chemicals, the difference is vast.“The NAAA has been working a lot with the EPA and the Clean Water Act. There’s some permitting that’s been required here recently that is pretty burdensome to aerial applicators across the nation. It applies to ground applicators too, but unfortunately we’re sometimes more in the public eye and tend to get wrapped up in those situations more,” Gibbs said. “The process is not such a big deal to file for, but just getting them to understand that a lot of our business is on demand and guys call and want stuff done that day, the following day, or yesterday. And trying to get those permits through the government, it’s not happening that fast. That makes it pretty difficult to do our job successfully when you’ve got those issues.”Gibbs also mentioned an interesting time for drones across the country has made them especially curious for ag pilots to deal with.“Some of the biggest things we’re dealing with right now is obviously the UAV, drone technology. With them being so accessible to the public, how can we work together with the people selling them or using them to make sure we all stay safe? The last thing we want to do is have a drone strike in somebody’s back yard because we’re trying to spray a field behind their house and there’s somebody out there with a drone flying around,” Gibbs said. “The NAAA has been working the FAA to try to sort out some of these regulations to keep it best for both of us. It’s a cool technology that’s really useful to the farmers. There’s a lot of benefits to it and our organization doesn’t want to see it go away, but we just want to make sure that we have input so we can all safe at the end of the day and go home to our families.”Gibbs said overall, it’s a strong time in the agricultural aviation industry in which communication is paramount.“I think it’s stronger then ever. We’re really trying to reset our image to being professional and using a lot of technology now that we didn’t before. Just trying to get the word out that we’re not out to hurt anybody, we’re just trying to do our jobs and provide a service to the agricultural industry,” he said. “Sometimes the only way for them to get work done is by using us. Like I said, a lot of younger guys here getting involved in the industry and a lot of older guys to talk to get some mentorship, so I think the overall health is good.”last_img

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