Ban on Crop-Dusting Extended a Second Day

Article excerpt

Byline: Mick Zawislak Daily Herald Staff Writer

Pilots who use special planes to dispense pesticides were grounded for a second consecutive day Monday due to fears of the potential for airborne chemical or biological attack.

In Illinois, FBI agents told crop-dusting companies to be "extra alert" about any suspicious activity, said Frank Bochte, a spokesman in the Chicago office.

The ban came after authorities learned that one of the suspected hijackers in the attack on the World Trade Center had shown interest in crop-dusters and that a man now in federal custody had downloaded information about the planes, Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

He said the FBI had gathered information raising fears that the small farm planes could be used in a biological or chemical attack. But there was "no clear indication of the time or place of these attacks."

It was the second time the planes have been grounded since the FAA cleared the way for most flights to resume Sept. 14, three days after the terrorists attacks.

The grounding was set to be lifted at 12:05 a.m. today.

The ban was expected to have little impact on farmers in northern Illinois, as most crops already are being harvested.

"This time of year there won't be much activity (in Illinois) period, except for specialty growers," said John Herath, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Most aerial spraying of crops involve the use of insecticides and fungicides - not in widespread use in the collar counties.

"I don't even know of any companies off the top of my head around here that do (aerial spraying)," said Gregory Koeppen, Lake County Farm Bureau spokesman. …