116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s been more than a year since Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 482, which allowed the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to fine farmers and other private herbicide and pesticide applicators up to $500 when the chemicals they apply drift and damage neighbors’ fields.
Before that change, only commercial applicators, such as ag services companies or grain elevators, could be fined.
Damage to soybeans and trees from drifting weedkiller — particularly dicamba — was the “most extensive” in 2020 than it had been since the herbicide was introduced in the 1960s, experts said.
Dicamba, the active ingredient in several name-brand herbicides, has been used in Iowa for decades to control broadleaf weeds, including waterhemp. The weedkiller is ground-applied, but because dicamba is more volatile than some pesticides, it can evaporate after it lands and drift to nearby fields and forests.
A 2020 Gazette review of 53 dicamba drift complaints filed with the Ag Department’s Pesticide Bureau in 2018 showed only one resulted in a fine, despite violations in nearly all the complaints and lab-confirmed damage to neighboring plants in more than 30 complaints.
What’s happened since
When the bill was signed, it became part of Iowa Code. But some legislation requires the state to adopt new administrative rules for how the law will be enforced.
“We are currently in the process of updating our state pesticide plan, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and plan to include rules/procedures for the private applicator penalty in this rules package once we have received feedback from EPA,” said Chloe Carson, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Ag Department.
She didn’t know exactly when this process will be complete.
“It will not be implemented this growing season,” Carson said.
While at least two growing seasons will have passed before this law is enforced, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, said he isn’t surprised.
“It is not unusual for rules to take such a long time,” he said in an email. “They are doing the pesticide drift rules along with other EPA rules.”
The bill also would create a five-member pesticide applicator peer panel to help the department assess or collect the fines. Ag Secretary Mike Naig has to appoint the members, including two certified private applicators and two members of the public.
Iowans’ complaints about weedkiller drift have more than doubled since 2012.
The Ag Department received 315 complaints of herbicide or pesticide misuse for the 2021 crop year, which went through Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021. Of those, 289 were in agricultural use and 26 were in non-agricultural use, the agency reported.
This is down slightly from 320 complaints in crop year 2020, but up from 121 complaints in 2012.
Comments: (319) 339-3157; email@example.com