Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies

Committee Chair

Caroline Stephens

Commitee Members

Neva Hassanein, PhD, Tim Seipel, PhD


Organic agriculture, pesticide contamination, pesticide drift, inadvertent contamination, organic crops, crops


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Agricultural Education | Environmental Health and Protection | Liberal Studies | Sustainability


Pesticide drift and inadvertent contamination pose particular risks to organic production. Some organic producers have lost their crops, certification, and/or organic markets because of contamination events. Through this thesis research, I explain the perceptions and experiences that certified organic farmers in Montana have about drift and inadvertent pesticide contamination. I conducted semi-structured interviews with eleven certified organic farmers from various regions of Montana. Along with one-on-one interviews with organic farmers, interviews with industry and regulatory officials were conducted to better understand the policies and procedures that control what happens when drift occurs at the state level. Industry and regulatory official participants included organic certifiers, organic inspectors, Montana Department of Agriculture employees, and an organic policy analyst. Participants were given space to share their concerns, experiences, and recommendations regarding pesticide contamination and the future of this research. This research shows that drift is a complex issue and that farmers experience drift differently. However, common themes emerged in the interviews. Key themes distilled from the data include the importance of communication among organic producers and their community; contamination effects on rural relationships; and the outcomes producers face after contamination occurs. The data collected during this research also suggests that changes can be made to mitigate and even prevent contamination. I conclude this thesis with several recommendations for Montana and the National Organic Program. Recommendations include enforcing stricter pesticide regulations at the state level, creating a fund within the National Organic Program to compensate organic producers after contamination events, and working to educate consumers and conventional producers about certified organic agriculture. Organic producers are dedicated to growing food free of pesticides, but pesticide drift and inadvertent contamination are making that choice increasingly difficult in a chemical-laden world.



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