State's crop dusters flying again

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's crop dusters are flying again after weathering federal rules in recent days that left them grounded and some of them frustrated.

The planes were parked Sunday because of national security concerns, but that ban was lifted Monday.

``They told me it was all part of a nationwide effort to shut us down,'' said Richard King of Double ``K'' Spraying near Hydro. ``I don't like the way the FAA handled the whole thing.''

Donna Lawrence of Allin Lawrence Aerial Spraying in Eakly said she was told by Federal Aviation Administration officials that extensive background checks were to be performed on everyone.

``Apparently, they had a threat from someone about using a crop duster to spray biological chemicals,'' she said. ``It is something that could happen. I think it's a reasonable response, considering there are a lot of crop dusting planes across the United States.''

Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman in Oklahoma City, said Thursday he had no information regarding such a threat.

Some companies said the grounding may have left some crops in jeopardy.

``This is a critical time of the year in Caddo County because of the peanut crops,'' said Dale Barnes, also of Double ``K'' Spraying. ``This is a critical time for spraying bugs right before harvest.''

Same farmers have already started digging up their peanuts, a process that will stretch into November.

``Obviously, this puts a damper on the producers out there who need their crops sprayed,'' said Jack Carson of the state Agriculture Department.

The grounding didn't really hurt crops in northwest Oklahoma because their season is nearly over.

``I guess when it comes to terrorism you have to use your imagination,'' said Dave Roth of Roth Aerial Spraying in Alva. ``They're (authorities) trying to think of every angle.