A farmer-led coalition in Iowa is celebrating a recent announcement from state officials signaling significant improvements in how agencies respond to crop damage from pesticide drift.
Late last month, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) revealed their commitment to speed up drift damage testing from over nine months to just under 12 days. This dramatic shift is in response to calls for policy change from a statewide coalition led by farmer organizations, including the Iowa Farmers Union, the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network, Iowa Organic Association, Practical Farmers of Iowa and PAN.
High costs of drift damage
As Iowa Farmers Union President Jana Linderman notes, pesticide drift poses particular problems for family farmers, beginning farmers and those with organic certification:
It's unacceptable to wait six months or more to know whether a crop has been contaminated by pesticide drift, and what chemicals were involved. We're pleased that IDALS has heard these concerns and is working to provide Iowa farmers and consumers with the level of service they need and deserve, following an incident of pesticide drift."
Pesticide drift is a growing problem throughout the Midwest, and can cause significant financial hardship for farmers cultivating fruits, vegetables and other sensitive crops. Crop damage can result in high financial losses per acre, and for organic growers, drift can also result in loss of certification.
A diversified vegetable farm can gross upwards of $15,000 an acre, making even a small drift incident very expensive.
Moving toward prevention
The coalition will continue working with farmers, state agencies, and lawmakers to address the problem of pesticide drift in Iowa. As PAN's Midwest Organizing Director Linda Wells noted in a Des Moine Register article on the IDALS announcement, the speedier turnaround time is an important win that will make a real difference for farmers experiencing drift damage — which, she said, is likely underreported.
Wells notes that the coalition will be monitoring IDALS' implementation of the quicker crop damage testing, and will continue pressing for online incident reporting and other improvements.
This isn’t about prevention, this is about making it easier for farmers to respond when they do get drifted upon. So we'll be working on helping farmers prevent drift and mitigate the damages in the future."