Move is triggered by damage from dicamba pesticide sprayed on GM dicamba-tolerant crops
Dr Chuck Benbrook commented on Twitter on the story below, "Iowa trees have been hit with #dicamba drift for 5 years, #6 coming up. Now 2,4-D will be in the mix. It takes several years for these herbicides to kill mature, healthy trees. If/when that happens, bad news for the Iowa landscape - and the climate."
Farmers could be fined for pesticide drift under bills approved by Iowa House and Senate
The Gazette, 10 Mar 2021
* Legislation stems from Gazette report on crop and tree damage from drifting dicamba
Iowa farmers could be fined for allowing weedkiller to drift to neighbors’ farms, orchards and gardens under bills passed by the Iowa House and Senate this week.
Senate File 482, and its House companion bill, House File 782, allow the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to pursue civil penalties of up to $500 against private applicators of pesticides and weedkillers when the chemicals drift and cause damage to neighboring crops or plants.
As of now, only commercial applicators — such as ag services companies or grain elevators — may be fined.
“I couldn’t believe there was no ability for (the Department of Agriculture) to be able to have a fine schedule or anything in place,” Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, said.
The Senate bill passed Monday night and the House version was approved without debate Wednesday. The legislation now will go to Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Kinney started looking into the issue in December when The Gazette called him for a story about drift from dicamba, the active ingredient in several name-brand herbicides.
The weedkiller is ground applied, but because it’s more volatile and some other chemicals, it can evaporate after it lands and drift to nearby fields and forests.
Damage to Iowa soybeans and trees in 2020 was some of the most extensive weed scientists have ever seen, they noted in July 2020. The chemicals cause plant leaves to wither and cup, so they can’t absorb as much sun for photosynthesis.
The Gazette last fall reviewed 53 dicamba complaints filed with the Ag Department’s Pesticide Bureau in 2018 — the most recent full year of enforcement actions — and found 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.
Weak state penalties cause some Iowans to bypass the complaint process altogether, Bob Hartzler, an Iowa State University agronomy professor and extension weed specialist, told The Gazette in December.
“They have come to learn that you call in the state, get an enemy with your neighbor, and nothing happens,” he said. “Nothing happens to change the behavior of the offending parties. That’s pretty frustrating for some people.”
Some people have turned to the courts. Stan Staats, who owns 700 chestnut trees near Wapello, sued the Farmers Elevator & Exchange in Wapello in 2017 over damage to his trees and plants from drifting weedkiller. He settled out of court a year later.
Kinney worked with the Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, to introduce SF 482, which requires private applicators to be certified by the state and makes them subject to civil penalties.
The bill creates a five-person review panel to review complaints against private applicators and evidence collected by state investigators to make recommendations on fines.