HURON, S.D. -- A South Dakota beekeeper was hoping the state’s Department of Agriculture could help her investigate possible pesticide drift that killed fruit trees and a bee hive on her property, but instead was slapped with a disorderly conduct charge.
Kristine Brown was charged with disorderly conduct on June 12 “in that she intentionally caused serious public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm” to another person or created a risk by engaging in fighting or exhibited violent or threatening behavior, according to a court document.
Kristine Brown was acquitted of the charge by Judge Patrick McCann on Oct. 16. The incident stemmed from Brown’s interactions with a South Dakota Department of Agriculture inspector who was sent to the Brown’s property in Beadle County for a “usage inspection," according to Kristine’s son, Trent Brown.
Trent Brown said his family owns Wolsey Honey Co. The pesticide that allegedly killed several of the Browns’ beehives was applied in late May, which prompted the family to call on the local authorities and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture to conduct a pesticide drift investigation.
Trent Brown said that the pesticide, which he and his family believe to be Paraquat, decimated the fruit trees and several beehives on their property. He also noted that the family's property is a registered "sensitive area" in the state. "The damage was instant," Trent Brown said.
“The leaves were welting on the plants. The leaves were dissolving. All the apricots were aborted, the bees were just dead in the hive," he said.
Trent Brown said the pesticide applicator responsible for the damage was spraying during a day where wind gusts reached speeds of up to 30 mph.
A couple weeks later when the state inspector was visiting the family’s property, seemingly to continue the investigation, Trent Brown said the family was informed that no samples would be taken and the invitation would cease then and there.
That’s when Kristine Brown called the Beadle County Sheriff’s Office while her son questioned the inspector as to why no more samples would be taken.
"They were supposed to come out there and inspect the place, and we got disorderly conduct for basically disagreeing with him and asking him why he said he wouldn’t take any samples,” Trent Brown recalled. "He just sat there in the truck and didn’t say anything. They were basically saying is they don’t have to do anything."
Public court documents do not specify what exactly led to the charges against Kristine Brown.
Trent Brown estimated that the family lost 120 bees in all, many of which were new queen bees that the family had recently invested in, which put the monetary loss in the thousands.
"They were all brand new nice hives that were dead,” Trent Brown said.
"We have 4,000 hives, that many is not going to take us out,” he added.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture did not return phone calls inquiring about the case, but provides information on the pesticide complaint process on its website.
According to that website information, "threatening or abusive behavior against (South Dakota Department of Agriculture) staff will not be tolerated and the investigation may be discontinued as a result of this type of behavior."
"If, during the course of an investigation, an individual becomes physically or verbally confrontational or abusive, the inspector will leave the scene and report the incident to the SDDA and the local authorities. The (South Dakota Department of Agriculture) reserves the right to drop a case or choose not to initiate an investigation under certain conditions,” according to the website information.