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Iowa's noxious weed law gets more teeth

noxious weeds

A new law allows the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to add a plant to the state’s official list of noxious weeds. 

Iowa’s noxious weed law underwent some changes this year, and the Palmer amaranth scare probably had something to do with it.

“It hadn’t been updated for quite some time,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says of the change, which went into effect July 1. “But Palmer amaranth probably provided some inspiration to look at this.”

One of the biggest changes made this year is that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will now be able to use the rule-making process to add a plant to the state’s official list of noxious weeds.

Until now that required a vote by the legislature.

Kristine Tidgren, head of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University, also says the changes were likely in part a response to recent issues involving the spread of Palmer amaranth.

The present list of primary noxious weeds includes quack grass, perennial sow thistle, Canada thistle, bull thistle, European morning glory, horse nettle, leafy spurge, perennial peppergrass, Russian knapweed, buckthorn, all other species of thistles belonging in the genera of Cirsium and Carduus, and Palmer amaranth (which was added last year).

There is another list of plants defined as secondary noxious weeds in the law. That list includes plants such as cocklebur, sour dock, poison hemlock, multiflora rose and wild sunflower, as well as butterprint, wild mustard, wild carrot, buckhorn, sheep sorrel, smooth dock, puncture vine, teasel and shattercane.

The noxious weed list pertains to weeds that should be eradicated, but there are others that should be contained, officials say.

Another change in the law is that the Secretary of Agriculture can now name a state weed commissioner, though he is not required to do so.

If no weed commissioner is appointed, the Secretary acts as the state weed commissioner.

Other changes were made regarding the power of county boards of supervisors to adopt programs for weed control, and Naig says he plans to work with the Department of Transportation, various agricultural groups and other parties to coordinate state weed policy and support for weed control efforts.

Still, for the most part, weed control is a local subject. For individuals with a problem, the first step is to contact the county weed commissioner, though in some cases regarding weeds in road ditches or other areas, the DOT may be the place to contact.

From a legal standpoint the process works through the county weed commissioner and the county board of supervisors.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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