Farmer says he lost his organic status after crops sprayed by contractor
By Christine VanTimmeren
A Seminole County farmer says a contractor hired by the Canadian Valley Electric Company destroyed his crops with herbicide. He says it happened when the contractor was spraying the right-of-way around the power lines. Don McGehee says he did sign an easement with the Canadian Valley Electric Company in 2013 saying they had the right to trim or cut down trees that were within 15 feet on either side of the lines, but he says the document said nothing about spraying chemicals. He says the chemicals killed his organic plumb trees. McGehee's family has been in the organic farming business for 98 years. Just two years shy of celebrating one century, McGehee says his dream was crushed. In late June McGehee discovered more than 200 of his plumb trees were dead. He says another swath of blackberry plants were dead as well. He says Canadian Valley Electric hired a contractor to spray herbicide along the lines, but he says the contractor went too far. "They've done this without my permission and without my knowledge," he said. Maybe worse than the $140,000 in estimated damage to his farm, McGehee says the chemicals mean he is no longer certified organic. "Meant a great deal to me, and now it's gone." Canadian Valley Electric would not speak to Fox 25 on camera, but did say an investigation into the incident has been turned over to its attorney. "I ask them do not put any chemicals on my farm and the gentleman that worked for the electric company stated not to worry," McGehee said. Canadian Valley said it did hire an outside contractor to spray on McGehee's land. Fox 25 tried to contact that contractor but they refused to talk. McGehee claims the contractor tried to bribe him to keep quiet. "Offered me 25, $100 bills, said he had it in his right pocket. If I could take it and we could walk away and forget the whole incident," McGehee said. McGehee said that was unacceptable. Now he wants answers and wants someone to be held accountable for what happened. "I live alone. I lost my only child and grandchild in a horrible car wreck in 2006. This is all I had left to hang on to, was the land and the reputation." According to federal organic statutes, McGehee cannot regain his organic status for three years. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture says it is also conducting its own investigation into what happened.
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