Colorado rancher jail-bound for spraying pesticides to protect wife from mosquitoes
An 81-year-old Colorado rancher who waged war on mosquitoes after his wife nearly died from West Nile virus has launched a last-minute fight against going to jail this week for spraying pesticides that wafted over his neighbors' organic farm.
"This is such a bogus deal. ... It is really ridiculous," James Hopper said last week on the land in Hotchkiss he has worked for 50 years. "All I'm trying to do is protect us from the mosquitoes."
State Judge Jeff Herron sentenced Hopper to jail for two days — and fined him $7,500 — ruling that his spraying until 2015 violated a 2012 court order that protected his neighbors, vegetable growers Rosemary Bilchak and Gordon MacAlpine, who suffers from leukemia.You know what I think of a 81 year old rancher going to jail? Get ready, brace yourself, setting down? I'm all for it.
First off its only two days. That's right 48 hours. You know how he got that 48 hr sentence? Over 3 years of violating other peoples property rights. That doesn't even work out to one day in jail for every year he refused to stop spraying chemicals on his neighbors.
Before you think I'm fooled by Bilchak and MacAlpine (the people he was spraying) tale of woe, I'm not. Leukemia isn't aggravated by airborne spray. Leukemia is a form of cancer of the blood. I'm also not buying the story that they were actually honest to gosh legitimate certified organic farmers. Because they never bothered with certification prior to looking for an excuse for monetary damages.
See Bilchak and MacAlpine bought their 20 acres off of Hooper in 2005. It takes 5 years to demonstrate that your farming has been free of artificial or chemical agents to achieve a USAD organic producer certification. Which means in 2010 they could have received their organic certificate. When did they apply? Not until they decided to go to court.
The practice of "organic farming" without actually doing the paperwork and paying the fee to be legitimately "certified organic" is fairly common in Colorado. It costs time, effort and money to be able to charge more for organic produce. So what happens is folks claim to be producing naturally, "just like organic" or that they are in the 5 year period where they are proving up for the certificate. In the mean time they try to charge you $4 for a zucchini.
I know this because like I said, I love going to Hotchkiss to buy fruit. There are a few things I can't grow that I will buy off a farmers truck. Blueberries, tomatillos, and okra don't grow well here. So I buy them if they are available when I'm there. I've been dealing with some of the same guys who are "in the process" of going organic for over 10 years. My conversation with them plays out the same every year. They claim $25 for a sack of okra or tomatillos is fair because they are "almost" organic. I remind them that they've been almost organic for a decade and we had this conversation last year, and the year before that etc. Then I get my grocery sack of okra for $10. It's a game.
Bilchak and MacAlpine's story falls apart pretty fast when you know how the game is played. They were playing a game and they saw a chance to make a claim and grab some cash. So why am I against Hopper? He's an idiot. First, he sold off 20 acres to a couple of hippie wannabe farmers. Then he knew he was pissing them off with the spray. Which is probably why he was doing it. But, and this is the kicker, he knew he didn't have the right to do it. When the judge told him to stop in 2012, he just ignored the court order for three years.
As much as I'd like to be on Hopper's side, he's brought his trouble on himself.