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Pesticide Complaints: What to Expect

If you suspect that a pesticide was illegally distributed or misused, you may file a complaint with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). MDARD has primary enforcement responsibility for pesticide use violations in Michigan. Pesticide-related complaints filed with other state and federal agencies (including the Environmental Protection Agency) are often referred to us for follow-up. We investigate pesticide issues in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings.

Pesticides are substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating pests. Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides are some of the more recognized pesticides. Others include plant growth regulators, surface disinfectants, and swimming pool sanitizers.

Common pesticide-related complaints include:

  • Pesticide misuse (including drift) that resulted in or is likely to cause human or animal exposures, property damage, or environmental harm.
  • Pesticide applicators and application businesses working without required licenses, certifications, or other trainings.
  • Inadequate customer or community information exchange or notifications for pesticide applications as required by law.
  • Sale or distribution of unregistered or misbranded pesticides.

Before Filing a Complaint

If this is an emergency, contact an appropriate responder prior to filing your complaint with MDARD.

  • If you believe you were exposed to pesticides and became ill, please seek medical attention. For urgent health concerns, call 911 or contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. If it’s available, have the product container, label, or any available information about the product with you.

    If you were contacted with pesticides due to drift or off-target discharge and intend to file a complaint with MDARD, consider putting your clothes into a clean bag, and if possible then into a refrigerator separated from food items. Your garments may be collected for residue analysis in an investigation of the incident. Personal items collected by MDARD as part of an investigation cannot be returned.

  • MDARD emergency contact information for spills can be found on the general Contact Us page. If the spill is an immediate danger to health or safety, call 911.
  • If you have general questions about the risks of pesticides, contact NPIC (National Pesticide Information Center) at their website or 1-800-858-7378. If it’s available, have the product container, label, or any available information about the product with you.

    If you are not reporting a potential violation but have a question only about what someone applied, we recommend you speak with the applicator or neighbor. We do not perform spot records reviews only to fulfill a general request for information.

    If you have general questions about the MDARD pesticide program, email

  • Depending on the nature or your concern, some types of complaints should be directed to other agencies.

    • Vandalism or malicious destruction of property: If you believe someone used pesticides to intentionally damage or vandalize property, this is a criminal activity that should be reported to your local law enforcement agency.
    • Workplace hazards or discrimination based on safety and health issues: If you need to report non-pesticide hazards at your worksite, or if you believe that your employer has discriminated against you based on safety and health issues, you should file a complaint with MIOSHA (Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration). This includes agricultural workers and handlers who believe they have been retaliated against for attempting to comply with the federal Worker Protection Standard. MDARD does not have the legal authority to maintain complainant anonymity the way MIOSHA can.
    • Consumer complaints: To file a consumer complaint against a business for unfair practices or breach of contract, contact the State of Michigan Attorney General Consumer Protection Team.
    • Releases of substances into aquatic environments: Submit a complaint of pollution (air or water), spills, or unauthorized activities impacting air quality, wetlands, lakes or streams with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
    • Nuisance complaints involving farms: The Right to Farm (RTF) program within MDARD responds to nuisance complaints involving farms, including odors. Responding staff evaluate farm activities to determine whether a farm is following the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). RTF complaints cannot be filed anonymously.
    • Aircraft Concerns: Aerial pesticides applications allow farmers to treat disease and insect issues without running over and damaging crops. Crop duster planes and other aircraft, including drones, intentionally fly low to accurately spray crops and reduce the chance of drift. Michigan does not have notification requirements for general aerial applications unless part of a community-wide program. If you suspect that an aerial application resulted in off-target drift, you may file a pesticide complaint with MDARD. Other aircraft safety concerns can be filed with the Federal Aviation Administration by contacting your area's Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).
  • If you suspect that plants, soil, or water were improperly exposed to pesticides, it is important to document the condition of the impacted area before and after damage becomes apparent. Most plants tend to show symptoms within a week after an application. If you can, take photographs of the scene that you can provide when filing a complaint.

    Save any available paperwork (such as public notices or customer receipts) or other evidence (including home security camera footage) that could assist MDARD with an investigation.

    MDARD’s Geagley Laboratory will only accept pesticide samples that have been collected by MDARD personnel. If you want to collect your own samples, you will need to submit them to a private laboratory for analysis. We do not maintain a list of labs that offer these services, although Michigan State University Extension may have an updated list.

    If you are considering reporting damage to a raw agricultural commodity intended for human food, be aware that we may have to involve our Produce Safety Unit regarding potentially unsafe pesticide residues.

    If you are a certified organic farm and suspect drift, you should contact your certifying agency.

What to Expect When Filing a Complaint

  • Formal complaints can be filed by contacting MDARD. You will be asked to provide your name and contact information. Be aware that any identifying information provided to us becomes part of the official case file. This means that under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), some of your information may be disclosed if someone makes a request. We cannot legally offer anonymity if you provide your contact information. To file anonymously without providing your email address or phone number, use our online form.

    Your complaint may be provided to the business or person you are complaining about, and it may be sent to other governmental agencies for their review.

    Complaints can be filed anonymously, but that may limit our ability to do a thorough investigation. We will follow up on any credible tip involving an alleged pesticide violation, but our field response may vary depending on the nature of the concern and the amount of information available.

    Ensure that any information provided to us is truthful and accurate to the best of your knowledge. We reserve the right to use any information you submit in support of an administrative, civil, or criminal action.

  • After a complaint is filed, we will determine the appropriate response. If warranted, an inspector will be assigned to the case. The inspector will need to interview you (if you provided contact information) and the accused party. To fully investigate the concerns, the inspector may need to reveal your identity when conducting interviews or requesting information. The inspector may also interview other persons (such as neighbors) that may be involved with or have information pertaining to the incident.

    Depending on the allegations, the inspector may need access to your property to determine the nature and cause of the damage. The inspector may collect samples, such as plants, water, or soil. If necessary for the investigation, we may request your permission to collect personal items. We will only collect samples if they are deemed necessary.

  • The time to respond to a complaint and complete the report can vary due to many factors, including investigation complexity, sample collection, and laboratory analysis.

    After the investigation is complete, enforcement personnel will review the inspector’s reported findings. If violations are identified, we will pursue appropriate action. If you filed a formal complaint, you will receive a disposition letter after the case review. The letter will indicate if your allegations were verified or refuted.

    Case file information such as the report, statements, photos, collected records, sample results, and emails are considered public record. The disposition letter will contain instructions on how to file a FOIA request per MDARD’s guidelines.

  • Our experience has shown that some issues can be more effectively addressed by simply issuing an informational letter or providing compliance assistance resources. If we decide that a matter will be handled without an investigation, we can give you copies of any resources that we share with the accused party upon request.
  • MDARD does not have legal authority to recover damages or compensate individuals for losses due to pesticide use. Under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 of 1994, as amended, you do not have to file a complaint with MDARD to pursue a civil claim for damages.

    MDARD does not provide legal counsel. If you have questions about your legal rights, contact an attorney.

If you wish to file a pesticide-related complaint, please use our online complaint form.

What to Expect if You are Investigated for a Complaint

MDARD is authorized to enforce Part 83, Pesticide Control, and Part 85, Fertilizers, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 of 1994, as amended, and the rules promulgated thereunder. MDARD also has primary enforcement responsibility for pesticide use violations under sections 26 and 27 of the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide and Fungicide Act (FIFRA).

MDARD has authority to conduct investigations when there is reasonable cause to believe that a pesticide has been used in violation of the law and the promulgated rules. MDARD inspectors may enter and conduct inspections upon any public or private premises or other place, including vehicles of transport, where pesticides or devices are being used or held for distribution or sale, for the purposes of inspecting records, inspecting and obtaining samples of pesticides or devices, and to inspect equipment or methods of application, to assure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

  • The time to respond to a complaint and complete the investigation report can vary due to many factors, such as investigation complexity, sample collection, and laboratory analysis.

    After the investigation is complete, enforcement personnel will review the inspector’s findings. If no violations are found, you will receive a letter notifying you that we have concluded the investigation. If violations are identified, we will pursue appropriate action.

    Several enforcement actions are available to MDARD. Options include:

    • Orders to cease use or otherwise stop prohibited conduct
    • Written warnings
    • Administrative fines (up to $1,000 for each violation)
    • Court-administered fines (up to $5,000 for each violation plus costs of the investigation)
    • Court injunction
    • License suspension/revocation
    • Pursuit of criminal prosecution
    • Referral to EPA for review and federal enforcement action

    If we pursue enforcement action, you have rights to hearings and an appeals process.

  • If you are accused of a pesticide violation, MDARD will contact you to obtain your statements or otherwise notify you of the complaint. It is important to cooperate and provide truthful information. You may be in violation if you give false information or otherwise hinder the investigation.

    If applicable, the inspector may request relevant records and copies of pesticide labels. The inspector may visit your facility or the application site to perform a site assessment, take photographs, and collect samples, if necessary.

  • Case file information is considered public record. You have the right to request case files and associated documents at any time under the Freedom of Information Act.