Last week was a busy week for me. On the farm, the early indicators that Spring is approaching had us outside doing more than the normal day-to-day chores. The communications team at PAN, of which I am a member, held our annual planning retreat, which naturally takes a fair amount of energy and concentration. And I was also honored to be involved in the Iowa Farmers Union’s (IFU) Virtual Lobby Days.
We all lead lives that are busy in their own ways, so it makes sense that it can be difficult to engage in an extra activity, no matter how much we might agree with its purpose. In my case, it is my job to be involved. But it is also my job — and the job of organizations like IFU and PAN — to encourage you to become engaged in these processes with me. This is why IFU holds lobby day events, and it explains why PAN sends out these state newsletters. Each group is doing what it can to provide access and opportunity so that you can speak up and feel that your voice is heard. Let me encourage you, once again, toward a life of engagement and a life that works to make things better for all of us.
I was asked to present the IFU Lobby Day talking points for the issue of pesticide drift. At present, our focus is on enforcement of existing pesticide regulation in Iowa. It does not matter much if chlorpyrifos is banned for food crops or if use label restrictions are tightened up for dicamba if we can’t ensure that our actions on the ground match the agreement in principle that is the law. If this topic interests you, read on; I will provide more information later in the newsletter.
My personal motivations for engagement and being willing to advocate for better enforcement of pesticide use laws and regulations are based on many things. I have concerns related to human health, equity, food safety, farmworker safety, food security, food sovereignty, land access, and a whole host of things that are “people centered.” But, I am also motivated to speak for the environment that surrounds us — the land, water, and air. I hope to speak for creatures big and small that may or may not mean much to us personally, but mean a whole lot for the overall health of our world.
It should not surprise you that I see connections between unchecked, unmonitored, and uncontrolled pesticide use with all of the concerns I mentioned above. One step of many we should take is to effectively enforce restrictions that are put in place because we know pesticides are dangerous.
Let’s take that step, and all of the steps that go with it, together.
Communications Manager for PAN
Owner/Operator, Genuine Faux Farm, Tripoli, IA
Pesticide drift lobbying
The Pesticide Bureau, part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), is tasked with responding to reports of pesticide misapplication in Iowa. In addition, they also manage pesticide applicator licensing, pesticide use education, pesticide storage, and other rules and regulations pertaining to pesticides.
At present, the Pesticide Bureau has insufficient staffing to cover the increasing number of pesticide drift complaints. However, this year’s budget request from IDALS includes funding to add staff to the Pesticide Bureau. Considering the reticence of the state towards adding staff in any capacity, this is extraordinary, and shows us that IDALS acknowledges the need for support so they can adequately provide the services they are tasked to provide by law.
You can still participate in lobbying on this point. Contact your legislators and include the following talking points that are consistent with the past couple of years of lobbying at IFU Lobby Days on the topic of pesticide drift:
The Pesticide Bureau needs to be sufficiently staffed so they can perform their duties as required by law. We support the request for additional staff for the Pesticide Bureau by IDALS.
The maximum fines for misapplication need to be increased from the $500 maximum and licensing fees for applicators and distributors need to be increased.
An online incident reporting and electronic recording system should be made available to support staff and encourage accurate and timely reporting.
Take advantage of learning opportunities
The March calendar is full of opportunities. Here are a few that might interest you:
The Iowa Organic Association and Aaron Lehman, IFU President and Polk City organic farmer, are hosting an Organic Field Day on Tuesday, March 8 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. This field day is open to the public. You may register to attend here.
Practical Farmers of Iowa continues to provide weekly farminars on a wide range of topics every Tuesday through the month of March. You can view the full lineup and register for events that interest you at this location.
Curso de Comercialización (Español) Si estás interesado/a en tener autosostenibilidad y mejorar la economía de tu negocio agrícola, esta serie de 12 partes es para ti. Center for Rural Affairs. Comienza el 7 de marzo.
A few articles that got me thinking
In this newsletter I thought I would share a few online articles that provided me with food for thought:
One topic that is often on my mind is water quality in Iowa. Jared Strong recently published an article with the Iowa Capital Dispatch that succinctly outlines the threat of “forever chemicals”, also known by the acronym PFAS, in the Mississippi River.
Justin Carter with the Center for Rural Affairs provides some reflection on how Native American cultures in the United States can provide insight into what it means to have truly cooperative ventures.
Last, but not least, Kat Kerlin of UC-Davis makes a case for wild birds on our farms.
PAN is seeking a new Executive Director
PAN is actively seeking candidates for our Executive Director role. If you or someone you know would be interested in leading an excellent staff in continuing our work, please take a look at or share the job description.
Take Action! Support PACTPA
If we want to be better stewards of the land, we need legislation that supports that effort. Let’s tell Senators Ernst — who is on the committee that would consider this bill — and Grassley that we need to protect our children, our communities, our farmworkers, and our environment. Let them know that we think PACTPA is a step towards a better future for Iowa and the nation!