This week Senator Dick Dearden introduced a bill (SSB 3125) that would vastly improve pesticide spray drift testing for farmers across Iowa.
The current system for pesticide spray drift testing is outdated and inconvenient. When a farmer has been drifted on they are required to submit a report to the IDALS Pesticide Bureau within 60 days of the incident. The report must be submitted over the phone during business hours, which is particularly inconvenient when drift happens on a weekend or outside of business hours.
If a farmer is able to file a report, an investigator from the Pesticide Bureau is usually able to to follow up with an on-site visit to collect samples for lab testing in a matter of days. Unfortunately, the farmer won’t receive their results from IDALS for 6-8 months. This delay in test results is unacceptable.
Farmers may not be able to get in touch with the individual who caused the drift and are forced to wait for information about what chemicals their crops, animals, workers, and families have been exposed to. This is particularly problematic for farmers with specialty certifications such as ‘organic’ or ‘chemical free’ that are vital to marketing and pricing, or for farmers who grow food crops that may have been exposed to chemicals not approved for human consumption. Losing an entire harvest or season to an unknown chemical exposure can be financially devastating.
SSB 3125 does the following:
(1) Directs IDALS to allow for on-line reporting of drift incidents
(2) Directs IDALS to send samples collected in drift investigations to the State Hygienic Lab
(3) Appropriates civil fines collected by IDALS in drift investigations back to IDALS to pay for testing by the State Hygienic Lab
It’s time to move Iowa’s pesticide drift reporting system into the 21st century. On-line reporting would allow farmers to immediately report incidents when it is convenient for them. It would also allow farmers to directly file written incident reports in their own words, which could improve the accuracy of reporting. There would be no risk of details being lost when a third party attempts to translate a phone conversation into writing. We also know it works in other states; Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and South Dakota all have online reporting.
State Hygienic Lab
Iowa’s State Hygienic Lab currently processes identical field samples for the state departments of agriculture in Missouri and Nebraska as part of their official pesticide drift investigation process. They have sufficient staff, equipment, and workload to take the turnaround time from 6-8 months to just 2-4 weeks. Providing the same level of service to Iowa farmers that the lab already provides for Missouri and Nebraska farmers is an efficient and common sense solution for the delays farmers currently experience.
In the 21st Century online reporting and a faster turnaround time for testing results are not optional. The subcommittee for SSB 3125, which has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee, is not currently scheduled to meet. Take action now send a strong message to the subcommittee and members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee that Iowans want a more efficient pesticide spray drift testing protocol.
Senator Brian Schoenjahn (Fayette County) is chairing the subcommittee with Senator Kevin Kinney (Keokuk County) and Senator Dan Zumbach (Linn County). Please call or email your Senator and urge them to support SSB 3125 today!