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Interview with Harry Fulton, November 29, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:38 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: What are some of your earliest memories growing up in Winston County?

Segment Synopsis: Fulton mentions growing up in Winston County, Mississippi on a family farm. He describes working alongside his brothers as they farmed cotton and raised livestock. He talks about going to Mississippi State University where he earned both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in entomology, focusing on crop and livestock insects.

Keywords: 4-H Club; Louisville, Mississippi; bugs; marriage; share cropping; small farms; tenant farming; zoology

00:06:06 - Debate around health effects of pesticides and work as a field inspector

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Partial Transcript: In the early years, or in the 1960s and the 1970s, when you got into entomology--when you came integrated into that, were the sort of debates and the public pressure about the environmental health effects of pesticides a major thing?

Segment Synopsis: Fulton discusses the debates around the environmental effects of agricultural chemicals that coincided with the beginning of his career and changed over time. He states that chemicals that kill insects are also going to affect people's health. He describes working as a district inspector for the State Planning Board where he inspected plant nurseries, beehives, licensed pest control operators, and crop damage. He talks about the problem of chemical drift from the aerial application of pesticides which damaged people's garden's and killed fish in farm ponds.

Keywords: Black Belt; Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); DDT; aerial application; aldrin; chlorinated hydrocarbon; crop dusting; dieldrin; large farms; methyl parathion; organophosphates (OP); plant stock; race; small farms; termites

00:19:14 - Career path and Pesticide Registration Program

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Partial Transcript: How long did you work as just the district inspector?

Segment Synopsis: Fulton talks about working as a district inspector for five years before becoming the chief apiary inspector. Then he ran the pesticide registration program for 25 years before becoming the pesticide division director and then the state entomologist. He describes the pest registration program which was put in place by a law requiring the registration of all pesticides. Companies had to pay a registration fee and furnish the label of their product to be registered.

Keywords: beekeeping; chemicals; employment; government oversight; pesticide companies

00:22:46 - State Oversight and The Delta Council

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Partial Transcript: Could you tell me a bit about overall enforcement at the state level...

Segment Synopsis: Fulton describes the roles of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, mentioning how both initially focused on water quality. He talks about how the Endangered Species Act of 1973 resulted in increased regulation since farmers were using insecticides to kill predators which often harmed non-targeted species. Fulton also describes his work with the Delta Council where he served on working groups dealing with ground water protection and herbicide drift.

Keywords: Aldicarb (Temik); Mississippi Farm Bureau; bald eagles; carbofuran (Furadan); chemicals; health department; pesticides; poison

00:32:32 - State politics and federal enforcement

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Partial Transcript: So you probably worked with Jim Buck Ross?

Segment Synopsis: Fulton talks about serving as the secretary treasure for the Mississippi Beekeepers' Association (MBA) for 35 years. He describes how his work with the MBA lead him to interact with Jim Buck Ross who was the Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture from 1968 to 1995. Fulton talks about how government employees had to navigate their political work in order to avoid conflict of interest issues. He describes working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 to enforce federal laws when he worked for the State Planning Board. He discusses how the EPA had stricter protocol around chemical drift investigation which lead to a more formalized process.

Keywords: Beekeeping; Jim Buck Ross; elected officials; grants; lobbying; politics

00:39:28 - Challenges of pesticide regulation

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Partial Transcript: What about some of your biggest challenges over the years about pesticide regulation?

Segment Synopsis: Fulton describes the continued challenge of mitigating pesticide drift. He talks about the difficulty of getting pest control operators to do proper structural treatments for termites, but he states the the Mississippi Pest Control Association's education program has reduced the issue. He says that current pesticides are safer but less effective than past chemicals. He briefly describes the new method of termite baiting which is easier but takes more time than the older method of drilling and treating a whole structure to kill termites. He also talks about his work as the state entomologist where he supervised all the field inspectors and identified insects.

Keywords: Fipronil; agricultural chemicals; cotton; herbicide; rice; roundup ready crops; wheat

00:46:33 - Environmental Justice and the role of the EPA

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Partial Transcript: I know that the EPA has used the term I guess since the 90s--environmental justice. Has that ever been a thing in Mississippi...

Segment Synopsis: Fulton describes how the issue of environmental justice (the unequal exposure to environmental harms or benefits according to race or socioeconomic class) related to the toxic use of methyl parathion in houses to treat termites and the problem of tenant houses--both of which disproportionately affected African Americans. Fulton talks about how the lack of funding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resulted in the hiring of state contractors to carry out federal enforcement.

Keywords: chemicals; health department; insecticides; national politics; sharecropping

00:51:02 - Career highlights and change over time

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Partial Transcript: What are some of the proudest moments of your career?

Segment Synopsis: Fulton describes the proudest moments of his career as when he got promoted to state entomologist, wrote the histories of entomology and beekeeping in Mississippi, and when he raised the wages of field inspectors. He talks about the largest changes in agriculture over his lifetime, mentioning the loss of small farms, the introduction of genetically modified crops (GMOs), the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, and the increased regulation of agricultural chemicals. Fulton discusses the problem of colony collapse disorder (when worker bees abandon the hive) which he attributes the health issues rather than exposure to pesticides.

Keywords: beekeeping; bees; cotton; employees; salary; state government