Thistles Among The Corn Stalks

September 4, 2016

While writing my installment on the raising of monarda in Northern Iowa, I was curious about what types weeds could be found in the fields along with this new type of crop. One offender (among many) is the Canadian Thistle.
What are farmers doing about this? They’ve been fighting weeds for years, but now the government has gotten into the act to help them out. I came across an article in AGinfoday by Bob Hartzler. The title is Biggest Problem For Iowa Farmers Missing From Noxious Weed Law. Hartzler is referring to Iowa Code 317 which defines the law. It sounds like common sense – except for one thing. A question of timing.
With their legislation it is the bureaucrat who are defining which weeds are harmful (“noxious” in the document) and which ones are not. So far so good. However, Hartlzer mentions that the category of what is noxious and what is not is in a constant state of flux, and once the definition of “noxiousness” is entered in the law books, it is difficult to undo the definition of one weed which is no longer threatening and introduce or define a new weed which is. The legislative process is slower than the plants.
Another interesting point made by Hartzler is that most of Iowa’s weeds are what he calls “naturalized.” They come from somewhere else. Hence the Canadian Thistle. One tidbit: Hartlzer states that the first noxious weed law was passed in Vermont – in 1795 – against the Canadian Thistle, so this particular species has been with us for quite awhile.
Hartzler also states that counties have the authority to categorize which weeds are noxious and which ones are not. His final point, which I wholeheartedly support, is that specific weeds listed as harmful should be taken out of Code 317. Their threat levels change faster than the passage and revisions of laws to combat the problem. We will always have weeds, but if it is left to the counties to define and deal with the situation on a local level, responsive action might be taken quicker and the threat could be reduced considerably.

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