Normally, Story County soybean farmer Kevin Larson said, he would resolve a dispute with a neighbor privately. Instead, he went to the Iowa Pesticide Bureau in 2017, just like a lot of other Iowans did.
Workloads for eight state investigators who determine whether herbicides are applied properly in Iowa have more than doubled the past two years, with no plans in sight for adding staffers. The workload increase — from 110 misuse reports in the 2016 crop year to 249 in the 2018 crop year — coincides with the introduction by agrochemical companies of dicamba-based herbicides to kill weeds in farm fields. In spite of this, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Pesticide Bureau has not added staff investigators and completing cases is taking longer, spilling over into the next crop year. Cases taken on in the 2018 crop year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept.
A bill has been introduced in the Iowa Legislature that would increase the fee for a three-year public or private pesticide application certification from $15 to $30 and designate money raised from those fees to the state’s pesticide and administration fund. The fee for commercial applicators would remain at $75. The bill was introduced Feb. 25 and passed its first subcommittee hurdle two days later. It came a month after an IowaWatch story about how recommendations for investigating Iowa’s pesticide application, made by the Iowa State Auditor’s office in a 2012 audit and subsequent reports, had not been addressed.
Problems the Iowa State Auditor’s office identified in a 2012 audit and subsequent reports and recommendations for investigating Iowa’s pesticide use violations still linger years later. The Iowa Legislature has not changed state law on some fees the state Department of Agriculture Land Stewardship Pesticide Bureau charges licensed pesticide distributors and applicators, an IowaWatch review of public records shows. In other instances, applicators do not take continuing education classes in the same year they apply. Explanations exist for some of the concerns. For example, applicators take continuing education after harvest and before the next spring’s planting season during what is called the crop year, which runs Oct.