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Pesticide Drift: A Years-Long Loss for Iowa Organic Farms

PHOTO: There are more than 2,000 locations now on Iowa's Sensitive Crops Registry. The registry is used by pesticide applicators to minimize the potential for drift damage to fruit, vegetable and organic farms, along with bee hives. Photo credit: Andy Powell/Flickr.
PHOTO: There are more than 2,000 locations now on Iowa's Sensitive Crops Registry. The registry is used by pesticide applicators to minimize the potential for drift damage to fruit, vegetable and organic farms, along with bee hives. Photo credit: Andy Powell/Flickr.
May 18, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - When it comes to organic farming, Iowa has one of the largest numbers of certified operations in the nation, but there's a real danger in the air for those farms and other growers this time of year due to the potential of pesticide drift.

Allowing pesticides to drift is against the law in Iowa, and among those who have been impacted is Andrew Dunham, owner with Grinnell Heritage Farm. He's had pesticide drift on two of his organic crops, which then require a re-certification process that takes three years.

"In the case of the hay field in 2009, we had to wait until 2012 to be re-certified, so we had non-organic hay," says Dunham. "The market price isn't so different there, so that wasn't as big a loss as the asparagus."

Dunham says his asparagus was hit by pesticide drift in the fall of 2013, and the loss of the organic certification will mean $2 to $5 less per-pound until their crop of 2017.

Also at risk of damages from pesticide drift are some home gardens, along with the state's fruit and vegetable farms. Paul Ovrum, program planner with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, urges owners of such specialty and organic farms to report any pesticide misuse and sign up for the Sensitive Crops Registry.

"This is a registry for producers of sensitive crops, and also bee-keepers," syas Ovrum. "To list their locations and it's used by pesticide applicators so that they can minimize the potential for pesticide drift damage."

Ovrum says the latest count shows more than 2,000 farms and apiaries on the Sensitive Crops Registry statewide.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA