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Letters to the Editor 

As a senior citizen who has not actively participated in politics for years (except to vote against Bush and most others in his party except John McCain), I would like to commend your writer Robert Herold.

In his editorial about the River Park Square deal, "Semantics of the deal," (8/9/01) he explained so I could understand what he believes John Powers, the City Council and Betsy Cowles should do to resolve the mess over the River Park Square parking garage.

Public-private partnerships have gone on in the political world long before I came on the scene. And I understand deals for the good of the cause. But many of the seniors -- and those much younger -- who I talk to in trying to understand all the fighting that's going on between our leaders in the city have given up and do not even expect a solution to the River Park Square deal.

I voted for John Powers, as I believed this new face would bring Spokane to its rightful place as a desirable place to live in the state of Washington.

Now, let's see if his abilities can bring him to the level of statesmanship Herold so clearly pointed out is needed to bring us to peace and serenity -- and again make me proud to be a citizen of Spokane.

Yvonne D. Farrell

Spokane, Wash.

In your recent article, "Food Without Labels," in The Inlander's August 2 edition, Sheri Boggs wrote, "How are you to know that your bread comes from wheat treated with no less than 25 pesticides?"

In reality, no farmer can afford to apply 25 pesticides to a crop of wheat. Used broadly, the term "pesticide" includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Disease and insect infestations occur infrequently, and most modern wheat varieties have good resistance to them. So while farmers usually treat wheat seed to prevent it from rotting in the ground, they seldom need to apply insecticides or fungicides to the growing crop.

Weeds, however, are always a challenge, and farmers use various practices, including herbicides, to manage them. In our area, a wheat grower will generally use four herbicides that control different weeds and act in specific ways to increase weed control.

That means that the farmer typically applies five (not 25) pesticides to a wheat crop. If the grower occasionally has to use an insecticide or a fungicide, the number of applications rises to six or seven.

Consider the economics. The average winter wheat yield in Spokane County is about 60 bushels per acre, but it will probably drop this year due to the drought. The current price is $3 per bushel, which means an optimistic income of $180 per acre. The average pesticide bill is about $33 per acre. Fertilizer costs between $45 and $70 per acre, depending on soil type and the previous crop. So fertilizer and pesticides swallow about half of the projected income, which must still cover land rental, fuel, insurance, employee salaries and benefits, and the purchase and maintenance of equipment; tractors, grain drills, combine harvesters, sprayers, etc. A new tractor or combine costs $200,000 to $250,000. So even if the farmer would like his or her wheat fields to be as weed-free as a typical lawn on Spokane's South Hill, one extra pesticide ($10 to $15 per acre) could make a big difference to the color of the annual budget sheet.

Using that lawn as a reference point, if you hire a lawn care company to manage it, they will usually apply five or six different herbicides over the growing season. So if you're concerned about your overall exposure to pesticides, don't forget those used in your immediate home environment and the cans stored in your garage or under your kitchen sink.

Diana Roberts, PhD

Area Extension Agronomist

WSU Cooperative Extension

Spokane, Wash.

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