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.
Iowa will not add investigators to handle an increased number of pesticide drift complaints, favoring instead more efficient ways to handle complaint inspections, the state’s chief agriculture officer said. “I’ve got to manage the department of ag within my budget,” Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, said in IowaWatch’s weekly radio program that aired this past weekend. “It’s true, we’ve not seen a budget increase in the pesticide bureau, and I don’t expect to see a dramatic increase in the pesticide budget. So, what we do is look at how to manage the workload with the crew that we have.”
Naig’s comments followed an IowaWatch report on how workloads for Iowa’s eight state investigators who respond to complaints of misused herbicides have more than doubled the past two years. The workload increase went from 110 misuse reports in the 2016 crop year to 249 in the 2018 crop year.
Nine of every 10 public school districts in Iowa have buildings within 2,000 feet of a farm field, making students and teachers susceptible to being exposed to pesticides that drift from the fields when pesticides are sprayed. Yet many school officials interviewed for an IowaWatch/Tiger Hi-Line investigation showed little to no awareness on if or how pesticide drift could affect the staff and students in school buildings.