(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2015) The Iowa Farmers Union filed a petition yesterday with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) for rulemaking to improve pesticide drift incident responses, penalties, and support to farmers harmed by pesticide drift.

Pesticide drift from nearby fields is a very real problem for farmers in Iowa,” says Jordan Scheibel, a diversified vegetable farmer from Grinnell, Iowa. “Not only can pesticide drift delay or cause a farm to lose its organic certification, it results in products that farmers – certified organic or not – may not be able to sell legally, safely, or in good conscience, and it exposes the farmers and their workers to potentially harmful pesticides.”

Pesticide drift is an inevitable problem in chemical-intensive pest management strategies that rely on spray and dust pesticide formulations.There are essentially two types of drift: particle drift (off-target movement during application) and vapor drift (off-target movement when a pesticide evaporates from a sprayed surface), also known as volatilization. Both forms of drift present serious problems to unaware farmers and surrounding communities.

IDAL, which oversees pesticide application in the state, collects information about the location of farmers with sensitive crops, such as grapes, certain vegetables, organic crops, and beekeepers, in an effort to prevent pesticide drift. According to a recent report from the Practical Farmers of Iowa, however, agency responses to pesticide drift violations resulted in fines in less than 20 percent of the cases. And federal standards and responses offer little more—even with recent actions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement new drift technology rating standards,

To remedy these problems and prevent future damage to crops and people, the IFU petition requests several specific actions be taken, including:

  • IDALS provide information in writing and via the IDALS website to farmers and others who have come into contact with or suffered losses from pesticide drift regarding the details of the agency process, as well as their rights and available remedies under the law;
  • IDALS provide information on the potential financial impacts of pesticide drift as part of the certification and continuing education process for commercial pesticide applicators;
  • IDALS maintain a public database of the evidence of financial responsibility required to be filed with the agency by certified commercial pesticide applicators; that commercial pesticide applicators be required to provide IDALS with monthly reports of pesticide applications, and that spray drift incident reports involving contact with a human, sensitive crop, or bee apiary be made available in a public database;
  • Commercial pesticide applicators be required to provide notice to individuals who are on the sensitive crop or bee registries and who are within a 5-mile radius of the application site at least 48 hours prior to spraying; and
  • The rules be updated to provide for increased fines for serious or habitual violations of the rules governing pesticide application.

“Current administrative rules designed to prevent pesticide drift and assist farmers who experience losses from drift are inadequate.” Jana Linderman, President of the Iowa Farmers Union, states. “We have proposed several rule changes to IDALS through a recently filed petition for rule making. We are attempting to improve the relationship between IDALS and impacted farmers when it comes to dealing with damages caused by pesticide drift.”

The filing was announced yesterday at a joint press conference led by Iowa Farmers Union, in association with the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) and the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI).

For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

Supporting organic agriculture is one of the best ways you can reduce the risks of pesticide drift, as organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. For more information about the pesticides registered for use on foods we eat every day, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide, and the Organic Food program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


Originally Published: Beyond Pesticides