A program to help Mississippi farmers dispose of agricultural pesticides has surpassed a milestone in collecting over 1 million pounds of leftover products, according to Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell.

“The waste pesticide disposal program benefits farmers by providing them an inexpensive way to do away with farm chemicals. Mississippi farmers are able to maintain conservation on Mississippi lands,” Spell said.

Pesticide storage can lead to water quality, health, and environmental problems if containers deteriorate or storage is inadequate. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the Mississippi State University Extension Service secured funding from federal grants obtained through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to provide a waste pesticide disposal program. Without such a program, many farmers would have difficulty finding disposal that is cost-efficient and safe.

The total 1.13 million pounds includes 26,800 pounds collected at the most recent event in Batesville, Miss., March 22. It also represents 50 disposal events and the 1,100 farmers that have participated since the program began in 1994.

“The program has delivered a direct savings to farmers and applicators of more than $1.26 million in disposal costs,” said Jimmy Bonner, associate Extension professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Mississippi State University. “Individually, farmers just do not have the financial resources to defray the cost of disposal.”

Waste pesticides are legally classified as hazardous waste materials. Such materials cannot be disposed of by conventional means. In 1993, the Mississippi legislature passed the Waste Pesticide Disposal Act that allowed the creation of a program to remove unwanted, unusable pesticides.

“The key to the success of waste pesticide disposal for farmers in Mississippi has been the establishment of working relationships and good communication among organizers and participants,” Spell said. “We hope to continue this effort.”