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Overview of noxious weed-free forage and straw programs

Dan Safford Published on 14 August 2012

The United States Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) enacted a requirement in the mid-1990s in many Western states that required all forage and straw possessed on these lands to be certified noxious weed-free.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has enacted the same requirement on their lands in many Western states.

In the 11 Western states, USFS and BLM land in each state varies from 22 percent to 76 percent, with Nevada having the highest percentage followed by Utah and Idaho.

The purpose of this program is to limit the introduction and spread of noxious weeds through forage and straw into these public lands.

Noxious weeds displace native plant species, which can decrease grazing capacities for wildlife and livestock by 65 to 90 percent. Most noxious weeds are nonedible to wildlife and livestock.

While these weeds can be difficult to remove once they’ve been established, they are especially hard to detect and then eradicate on remote public lands.

Noxious weed seeds can be spread onto public lands through non-certified forage and straw and through animal manure that contain noxious weed seeds.

People must possess (or be subject to penalty) certified noxious weed-free (NWF) forage and straw when they enter public lands that have this requirement. Forage is defined as any type of baled hay or forage cubes.

Straw is defined as any type of straw that is baled. Alfalfa hay is the most common forage fed to equine and it is also the most common forage certified as NWF. NWF straw is most commonly produced from wheat and barley stubble.

In 1997, a voluntary national organization composed of professional weed managers involved in implementing any phase of county, municipal, district, state, provincial or federal weed law was formed.

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This organization was named the North American Weed Management Association (NAWMA). This organization has a national standard for inspecting and certifying forage and straw.

Twenty-two states and Canada are members of NAWMA. Members of NAWMA follow its forage and straw inspections standards. To find out if your state is a member of NAWMA, click here to go to their website,

The first step in participating in a NWF program is to find out if your state has a program and, if so, who operates it. In most states that have a NWF program, the state Department of Agriculture is the certifying agency.

Participation in producing NWF forage and straw products is voluntary. Once you have made contact with the certifying agency, an inspector will contact you, find out your tentative swathing/cutting and set up an appointment.

If your state agency is a member of NAWMA, the following is a typical sequence: The inspector will arrive prior to cutting/swathing – however, no more than 10 days in advance. A field that has already been cut or swathed can’t be certified.

The inspector will walk the perimeter of the field and then walk the interior of the field looking for the 54 prohibited noxious weeds on the NAWMA list plus the noxious weeds on your state/province list.

If the field doesn’t have any of the prohibited weeds in the reproductive stage (bud stage for broadleaves and boot stage for grasses), the field passes certification.

Most states mark bales as certified in two ways. The first way is some type of tamper-resistant weatherproof tag, issued by the certifying agency, that is attached directly to the bale twine/wire after it is baled. Bale tags typically cost about five to 10 cents each.

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The second way is the use of NAWMA-approved purple and yellow certification baling twine that can only be obtained by the state certifying agency.

This twine costs slightly more than non-certified twine. The obvious advantage of using the certification twine is that the bale is marked certified as it is baled.

The cost for inspections varies from state to state. Many states charge on a per-acre basis; however, some states may charge on a time and mileage basis.

Possible customers for NWF forage and straw include people that recreate with their equine on public lands, equine outfitters that operate on public lands, public land managers that are required to use NWF straw when they revegetate their land following a disturbance such as fire, utility companies and highway agencies that are required to place NWF straw over bare soil after soil disturbance, equine owners that don’t want to introduce noxious weeds onto their land with non-certified forage and BLM wild horse holding facilities.

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Most state agencies provide free advertising of the names of producers of NWF forage and straw at their website.

Benefits in participating in this program include a product that should garner a premium price over comparable quality non-certified product, new knowledge about weed management (inspectors typically have years of experience in the identification and control of all weeds, noxious or not) and increased interstate commerce.

There are Western state counties that will not allow any forage or straw to enter their county unless it is certified to the NAWMA standards.

In conclusion, NWF forage and straw programs are a weed preventative program for public lands. Participating in this program would allow a producer to have a premium product to market that is inspected and certified by a state/province agency.  FG

PHOTOS
TOP RIGHT: People must possess (or be subject to penalty) certified noxious weed-free (NWF) forage and straw when they enter public lands that have this requirement.

TOP MIDDLE RIGHT: Certified label from ISDA, showing that it is weed free.

MIDDLE RIGHT: NAWMA-approved purple and yellow certification baling twine that can only be obtained by the state certifying agency.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Participating in this program would allow a producer to have a premium product to market. Photos courtesy of Dan Safford.

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Dan Safford
Noxious Weed Specialist
Idaho State Department of Agriculture

 

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