September 15, 2016

Sidebar: Organic Certification And Pesticide Drift

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Using a high tunnel allows Rob Faux to extend his growing season, but it was also in the path of the spray in 2012 when an airplane accidentally dumped pesticides on his organic crops. The crops had to be destroyed and the fields and the produce in them couldn’t be re-certified as organic for three years, in 2015. This photo was taken April 29, 2016.

Lauren Mills/IowaWatch

Using a high tunnel allows Rob Faux to extend his growing season, but it was also in the path of the spray in 2012 when an airplane accidentally dumped pesticides on his organic crops. The crops had to be destroyed and the fields and the produce in them couldn’t be re-certified as organic for three years, in 2015. This photo was taken April 29, 2016.

Midway through 2015, Genuine Faux Farms near Tripoli, Iowa, regained its full organic certification, which had been suspended for its fields hit with pesticides in 2012.

Maury Wills, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Agricultural Diversification and Market Development Bureau chief and manager of the department’s organic certification program, verified that the farm, which was originally certified in 2007, underwent a partial suspension in 2012. That partial suspension ended in July 2015.

Wills said the certification program works to help producers identify the area of drift and will only suspend certification on areas of land impacted.

“We try to keep as much of their farm certified as possible. We might take out a portion of a field or one field,” he said.

That certification is automatically reinstated after three years without additional chemical impacts. The three-year window is the same as the requirement that land, upon initial organic certification, must go through a three-year period in which no non-organic products are applied.

Tests are rarely conducted as part of an organic certification. Certifiers are required to test 5 percent of the operations certified annually, Wills said. Some tests are determined randomly while some might be based on a cause to believe that non-organic chemicals might be found.

“If there was drift and you find that small amount, it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, three years later to find something from that drift event,” he said.

Of the approximately 380 farm operations certified through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Organic Certification Program, only about one or two report a drift incident each year, said Maury Wills, the department’s Agricultural Diversification and Market Development Bureau chief in the agriculture department and the manager of the organic program.

Wills said he couldn’t speak to the roughly 400 other organic farm operations because those don’t go through the state’s program.

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This IowaWatch story was republished by The Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA), Mesabi Daily News (Virginia, MN) and The Dispatch (Clay Center, KS) under IowaWatch’s mission of sharing stories with media partners.

One thought on “Sidebar: Organic Certification And Pesticide Drift

  1. Pingback: Iowa Watch: Drifting pesticides put neighboring farms at risk | Investigate Midwest

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