Pesticide Drift Resource Page

aerial spray applicator

Improving Protections & Resources for Farmers Dealing with Negligent Pesticide Drift

Iowa’s farmers have a right to adequate legal & financial protections when pesticide drift destroys a crop, damages a farm business, or harms the health of farm families & farm workers.

  • Pesticide drift threatens sensitive crops, livestock, and human health, and reports of drift are on the rise.
  • Drift is especially damaging for organic growers & food crops intended for human consumption.
  • Iowa ranks 6th in certified organic farms, and 30 percent of organic farmers are beginning farmers.
  • Conventional horticulture crops average $25,000 per acre or more in value, making it difficult for farmers to absorb even a few acres of crop loss.

Negligent pesticide drift – where a pesticide moves away from its intended target – can damage crops, cause the loss of organic certification, harm market access for farms growing food crops, and negatively impact human and animal health. All types of farms are vulnerable to pesticide drift: organic crops, organic livestock & dairy, horticulture, floriculture & specialty crops, non-GMO-certified commodity crops, and any crop that is not compatible with the chemical being sprayed. Reported incidents of negligent pesticide drift in Iowa have been increasing, and farmers are seeking better resources and protections to respond to drift and recover damages caused by negligent pesticide application.


When the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) Pesticide Bureau receives a report of pesticide drift, an investigation commences that includes the collection of field samples. The current turnaround time to analyze field samples in the IDALS lab averages 6 – 8 months; this delay can be devastating for farmers attempting to mitigate losses, particularly in cases involving organic-certified fields or food crops. The State Hygienic Lab performs similar lab testing for the Missouri and Nebraska departments of agriculture, with a turnaround time of only several weeks.

In the 2015-2016 legislative session, IFU promoted legislation (SSB 3125) to direct IDALS to partner with the State Hygienic Lab to improve the turnaround time for lab test results in pesticide drift investigations.

SSB 3125 was approved by the full Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee; following approval, Senators worked with IFU, IDALS, and the State Hygienic Lab to craft a proposal that would make use of the State Hygienic Lab to improve testing turnaround times, in particular for organic farmers and farmers growing food crops intended. The details of that proposal were still pending as of the end of the legislative session.

You can read our written testimony in support of SSB 3125 here.

The current minimum financial liability requirements for commercial pesticide applicators – $100,000 per incident and up to $300,000 annually – are not adequate to protect against losses to high value crops. Conventional horticulture crops have an average fair market value in the field of $25,000 per acre, and significantly more where there is a favorable local market or where the acres are designated organic. In addition to crop losses, farmers may face significant damages from lost organic certification, increased labor costs, and adverse health impacts.

Therefore, we also promoted legislation (HF 289; SSB 1190) to improve the financial protections for farmers who are harmed by negligent pesticide application, by increasing the minimum amount of financial responsibility required for commercial pesticide applicators to $300,000 per incident and up to $600,000 annually.

The Senate Natural Resources & Environment subcommittee held a hearing on SSB 1190, but no further action was taken prior to the end of the legislative session.

You can read our written testimony in support of SSB 1190 here.


On December 19, 2014, IFU filed a petition with IDALS to modify its rules relating to pesticides. View a copy of the petition here. Among other things, the petition requests that IDALS:

  • Provide information on the financial impacts of pesticide drift as part of required certification and continuing education for commercial pesticide applicators;
  • Require that evidence of financial responsibility by commercial applicators be maintained on file with IDALS and available to the public;
  • Require that reports of pesticide applications be provided to IDALS on a monthly basis and that spray drift incident reports be publicly available;
  • Require 48 hours advance notice of a pesticide application to all parties on the sensitive crop & bee registries located within 5 miles of the application site;
  • Provide clear standards for the levying the maximum civil fine and referring cases for criminal prosecution for habitual/egregious offenders;
  • Providing clear and easily accessible information to impacted parties on pesticide exposure risks, the incident reporting process within IDALS, and the remedies available to parties harmed by drift.

IFU hosted a press event at the State Capitol on January 20, 2015 to highlight the Petition for Rule Making and the challenges posed to farmers by pesticide drift. You can read more here.

In February 2015, IFU received a response from IDALS, denying the Petition for Rule Making. See the IDALS response here.


Iowa Farmers Union
PO Box 1883 Ames, IA 50010-1883