IDALS pledges faster turn around for crop damage testing
This week, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) revealed improvements to the agency’s response to pesticide drift incidents, when pesticides travel through the air after an application. This change is in response to calls for policy change from a coalition led by farmer organizations, including the Iowa Farmers Union; the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network; the Iowa Organic Association; Practical Farmers of Iowa; and Pesticide Action Network. These groups are working with farmers, state agencies, and lawmakers to address the problem of pesticide drift in Iowa.
Pesticide drift can cause significant financial problems for farmers growing sensitive crops and can result in high financial losses per acre. 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.
Before this change by IDALS, farmers facing crop damage from pesticide drift waited up to nine months to receive information from the agency about which pesticides have impacted their fields. IDALS has now agreed to prioritize pesticide drift testing in order to expedite the process. According to Secretary Northey, the wait times have decreased to an average of 11.7 days as of mid July.
Representatives from the coalition provided the following statements:
“Iowa’s family farmers, especially beginning farmers, rely on the ability to diversify their farms with high value specialty crops. If you are growing food crops or organic crops, it is unacceptable to wait six months or more to know whether a crop has been contaminated by pesticide drift and what chemicals were involved. Consumer safety and the ability to put honest labels on farm products requires a much quicker turnaround time. We are 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.”
– Jana Linderman, President, Iowa Farmers Union
“Pesticide drift is a serious problem for many of Iowa’s farms. We are pleased to see IDALS becoming more responsive to farmers dealing with this obstacle to healthy and productive farming in the state. We will continue to work with farmer organizations to promote policies that prevent drift and protect growers.”
– Linda Wells, Midwest Organizing Director, Pesticide Action Network
“The Iowa Organic Association represents the more than 850 certified organic operations in the state. Research has shown that organic grain farmers are able to make a more profitable income from farming than conventional farmers, and that they are less likely to work off-farm jobs. Furthermore, a recent study showed six Iowa counties to be recognized as organic hotspots, where an increase of organic farming has had a positive multiplier effect on Iowa communities by lowering poverty rates, raising median household incomes, and lowering unemployment. Iowa Organic Association believes that organic agriculture is crucial to a healthy Iowa rural economy and thus it is imperative that IDALS and the state legislature do everything in their power to protect organic farmers from pesticide drift, as well as helping facilitate Iowa as an organic-friendly state so that more and more acres can safely transition to organic certification. Organic is better for Iowa’s rural health and clean water. “
– Kate Mendenhall, Managing Director, Iowa Organic Association
“Because women are more likely to have diverse farms, grow specialty crops, and raise small animals, women farmers are more likely to be impacted by pesticide drift. What is best for everyone involved, both the farmers spraying pesticides and the farmers hurt by drift, is to address these situations as quickly as possible.”
– Bridget Holcomb, Executive Director, Women, Food, and Agriculture Network
Linda Wells, Midwest Organizing Director, Pesticide Action Network, (563) 940-1242
Jana Linderman, President, Iowa Farmers Union, (319) 651-2250