Iowa farmers will soon be fined for drifting weedkiller

Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | April 12, 2022

Senate File 482 was passed over a year ago, allowing farmers to be fined if pesticides on their crops drifted into neighbors’ fields. Farmers and pesticide suppliers were fined up to $500 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Before the Senate File was signed, only the pesticides service companies could be fined.

According to experts, the weedkiller dicamba was responsible for damaging more crops and trees in 2020 since it was created in the 1960s. Dicamba is notorious for being a drifting pesticide. It is used in many well-known pesticide brands that combat broadleaf weeds.

Since the bill was signed, measures need to be taken so the state can adopt a new concept on how to enforce the law. However, the law will not go into effect until after the current growing season.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Agriculture Department, Chloe Carson, said, “We are currently in the process of updating our state pesticide plan, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and plan to include rules/procedures for the private applicator penalty in this rules package once we have received feedback from EPA.”

Once the bill is in effect, it will construct a peer panel of five members to help manage and control the fines.

Iowa elected officials support mandatory stream buffers

Photo by Adam Sondel, Pexels

Tyler Chalfant | September 17th, 2019

The Conservation Districts of Iowa passed a resolution earlier this month calling for mandatory buffers to protect the state’s water by prohibiting crops from being planted within 30 feet of a stream. These buffers protect waterways from erosion and nutrient pollution, and also promote biodiversity by preserving habitats. 

The Conservation Districts of Iowa, or CDI, is made up of 500 soil and water conservation district commissioners, elected from each of the soil and water conservation districts in the state. The group’s purpose is to promote conservation practices and policy, and they now plan to lobby the Iowa Legislature on this issue, hoping to pass a law to make buffers mandatory. Minnesota passed a law requiring buffers of 50 feet, and now has a 96% compliance rate.

A similar resolution failed to pass the CDI last year. Laura Krouse, one of the commissioners who proposed the resolution, credits the change in opinion to the heavy precipitation and flooding that the state has experienced over the past year, which hurt farmers across the state. Many farmers already plant perennials around streams, but others don’t, and farmland regulations are expected to meet resistance. 

Opposition Secretary Mike Naig of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources said that he opposes making buffers mandatory, preferring voluntary, incentive-driven programs. Krouse responded that Iowa has, “relied on the voluntary approach for 70 years. It’s not working in some areas.” 

Iowa Department of Agriculture provides funding for urban water quality projects

Clive, Iowa is one of the cities that has received funding from the state to implement a water quality improvement demonstration project. (Kim/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | March 14, 2017

The Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Iowa Water Quality Initiative awarded grants for 12 new urban water quality demonstration projects.

The funds, totaling $820,840, will be met with $1.18 million dollars in matching funds and other in-kind donations. Gov. Terry Brandstand founded the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in 2013. Since then, 45 water quality demonstration sites have been established in addition to this year’s twelve new urban sites.

Gov. Brandstand said, “We know this is a long-term problem that we need to address, and by having a growing source of funding, we think we can speed up the progress that’s being made.”

The water quality demonstration projects will include improved stormwater management, permeable pavement systems, native seeding, lake restoration, and the installation of bioretention cells, among other measures. The cities selected include: Slater, Windsor Heights, Readlyn, Urbandale, Clive, Des Moines, Emmetsburg, Denison, Spencer, Cedar Rapids, Burlington, Waterloo and Ankeny. Upwards of 150 organizations from participating cities have also contributed funds to support the projects. In the last year, $340 million dollars have been spent to improve water quality in Iowa, including both state and federal money.

Meanwhile, a bi-partisan water quality improvement bill is making its way through the Iowa legislature. The plan, called “Water, Infrastructure, Soil for our Economy,” proposes a sales tax increase of three-eighths of a percent over the next three years while also “zeroing out the lowest [income] tax bracket” to offset the sales tax increase. The bill would finally provide funding for the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Fund, which was supported overwhelmingly by Iowa voters in 2010.

Representative Bobby Kaufmann is a Republican supporter of the bill. Kaufman said, “This is a sensible, balanced approach to finally combat Iowa’s pervasive water quality issues while not raising the overall tax pie for Iowans.” A minimum of 60 percent of the trust fund dollars would support proven water quality measures as provided by Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Kaufmann said, “The need is there. The desire to fix water quality exists. This provides the funding to get the job done.”


On The Radio – Specialty crop grants awarded to Iowa organization

The purpose of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. (Flickr)

 Jake Slobe | November 21, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses the Iowa Department of Agriculture grants awarded to ten projects throughout Iowa.

Transcript: The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship awarded grants to ten Iowa projects in order to make specialty crops grown in the Hawkeye state more competitive.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The ten grants are a part of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which provides federal funds to support food safety, research, growing and processing methods to encourage Iowans to consume specialty crops that are produced locally. The program has provided over $244,000 to producers for their specialty crops which include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers. Recipients were awarded a maximum of $24,000 and include Lutheran Services of Iowa, Practical Farmers of Iowa, ISU Des Moines County Extension and more.

Including more specialty crops in a crop rotation can help to eliminate pests and weeds, increase yields for each crop in the rotation, and improve soil fertility with a reduced need for synthetic fertilizers.

For more information about the Specialty Crop Grant Program, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Iowa DNR suspects farm crop duster is responsible for Medapolis fishkill

(Florida Fish and Wildlife/Flickr)

Jenna Ladd | August 3, 2016

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources suspects that crop duster farm chemicals are responsible for killing thousands of fish in a southeast Iowa creek late last week.

A local resident near Mediapolis discovered the dead fish last Friday, July 29th and notified authorities. When investigators arrived they found a five-to-six mile stretch of the Cedar Fork Creek to be littered with slain freshwater species of all kinds including bass, catfish, crayfish, sunfish and chubs. Short sections of Flint Creek were also affected.

DNR quickly ruled out fertilizer or manure spill as potential causes. Ryan Stouder, environmental specialist with the organization says he’s confident that crop duster farm chemicals are the culprit,“The Department of Ag pesticide investigator is pretty confident it is, just off the visual signs of mineral oil in the water.” Investigators are unsure if the contamination was the result of unintentional drift or an emergency aerial dump. Water samples were collected from the scene in order to determine specific chemicals present. If a source can be identified, DNR will take appropriate enforcement measures.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture joined DNR in further investigation on August 2nd.

Iowa ag group outlines ways to reduce waterway pollution

Geese taking off from the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)
Geese taking off from the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | October 3, 2014

Members of the Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance (ACWA) agreed on their 2014 Code of Practice which outlines “guidelines for consistent and responsible application of nutrients” during a meeting in Ankeny earlier this week.

This is a formal agreement for retailers who say they will wait until soil temperatures exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit before applying anhydrous applications without a nitrification inhibitor. Farmers and other ACWA members can utilize soil temperature and weather maps compiled by the Iowa State University Extension to get accurate readings on soil temperatures. The softer or warmer the soil it is, the easier it retains fertilizer and other nutrients reducing the amount of runoff and waterway pollution.

The Code of Practice is one way farmers can abide with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy as set fourth by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The plan outlines scientifically- and technologically-based ways to reduce nitrate and phosphorus levels in Iowa waterways, many of which drain into the Gulf of Mexico and contribute to what is known as the “dead zone.” The goal is to reduce pollution from point and nonpoint sources by 45 percent.

The AWCA consists of 12 ag retailers and three associate members who operate in the Raccoon River and Des Moines River basins. The Ankeny-based organization focuses on the relationship between water, weather, landscape, and farm management. Since 1999 AWCA members have invested more than $1 million to study water quality in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

Construction underway for biofuel station in NW Iowa

Nick Fetty | June 17, 2014

An ethanol plant near Marcus in Western Iowa. Photo via keeva999; Flickr
An ethanol plant near Marcus in Western Iowa.
Photo via keeva999; Flickr

Construction has recently begun on a new biofuel station in the Northwest Iowa town of Inwood.

Once completed, the Oak Street Station will provide motorists with various blends of ethanol (E10, E15, E30 and E85) as well as biodiesel (B5 and B99.9). The governor’s “Fueling Our Future” grant – a collaboration with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – provided $125,000 for the project. This grant is also helping to fund a similar project in the South Central Iowa town of Mouth Ayr.

According to data from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, there are 42 ethanol refineries and 12 biodiesel refineries in the state. Combined these facilities have an annual production capacity of more than four billion gallons.

Construction for the Inwood facility broke ground last week and is expected to be completed by January 2015.

Anatomy of Iowa Floods: Preparing for the Future – Seminar Series – 2010

Filling the Burlington City Council chambers, Southeast Iowa residents patiently listen to the panel of flood experts in Burlington on June 16, 2010.

Next stop: Red Oak. The Iowa Floods of 2008 are receding into history, but Iowans can learn from them, and from flooding this past summer. That was the message put forth in community seminars sponsored in part by the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research this summer and fall.

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