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Crop dusters given go-ahead to get back to work

September 18, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

After being on, then off, then on, then off again, Imperial Valley crop dusters are being allowed to fly again as of Monday.

Fears that crop dusters could be used to spread biological agents led to the grounding of the planes at a time when some crops in the Imperial Valley have just been planted.

After the terrorist events in New York and Washington, D.C., the crop dusters were granted an exemption Friday, then grounded again Sunday afternoon, according to a spokesman for Imperial Valley Applicators, who asked not to be named. He said there is a lot of alfalfa and vegetables just germinating that need spraying.

Monday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration office in San Diego gave the go-ahead for crop dusters to resume flying, although they must remain out of airspace where transponders are required, such as metropolitan areas with large airports.

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Lauren Grizzle, executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau and the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, said local pilots can expect the FBI to conduct background checks on them.

Michael Harrison, spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, said Monday the congressman was in touch with officials in efforts to reach some kind of balance between security and agricultural needs. Harrison said crop dusters face probelems because they are not controlled by airport towers or the FAA.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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