Landowners, commissioners discuss weed control
Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:55pm admin
You have to go to the top if we are going to change anything."
Several landowners filled the commissioner’s room at the courthouse, Tuesday, May 2, to discuss with the Haakon County Commission the severe problem of weeds on Midland Farms property.
The property is owned by out-of-state investors but local landowners are paying the price of the investors not controlling the weed problem.
For the past few years, Virgil Smith, weed and pest supervisor, has spoken of the Canada thistle infestation on the property. Last year he hired a helicopter sprayer to apply chemical to 850 acres in draws and rights of way areas. He plans to do another 500 acres this year.
Added into the mix is that surrounding landowners have been inundated with tumbleweeds from the abundance of kochia weed growth last year.
Kenny McIlravy said that is the biggest issue right now with Midland Farms, but there are also issues with alkali because of their farming techniques. He said when he tried to discuss the matter with their managers, Scott DeMott and Scott Dowling, he was told it wasn’t Midland Farms’ problem, it was someone else’s.
Smith noted the person they now contact has changed his tune from not having a budget for weed control to stating he would do everything he could to get it done. He is now working with neighbors to get things under control.
Jeff Willoughby, Midland, said he has had similar interaction with the new contact. Midland Farms purchased a machine that will grind the tumbleweeds. He gave Willoughby permission to get the machine from Hot Springs and use it. He said it works well, he did about seven miles of fence, both ways, in one day. He added that since the last high winds blew more tumbleweeds into that fence, he will have to redo the cleanup.
Willoughby said there are drifts of tumbleweeds. It has been so bad at his place that he had to move cattle out of the corrals so that he could open gates to let the tumbleweeds blow through.
The sheer amount of weeds blowing into the fences has bent them over. Those fences will have to be repaired or rebuilt.
State’s Attorney Stephanie Trask asked Willoughby if felt he has been compensated enough for damages by being allowed to use their machine. He said no, he would like to be compensated for his time as well. He noted he had to do it, so that he could turn his cows into that pasture.
Byron Hand, Midland, noted that time spent removing weeds causes them to delay what they should be doing on their own places.
Another issue with Midland Farms, said McIlravy, is that they have removed all their fences and have taken to farming the section lines. Each landowner pays taxes on their half of the section line, about 33 feet to the center of the section line. So, Midland Farms is farming land they do not own, and in some instances within inches of the fence, noted some of the neighbors.
Terry Buchert, Philip, stated that when they have had spraying companies come in, they spray even when it is windy. He said the drift has killed or stunted grass 150 out into the pastures.
Smith stated that it is evident the kochia up there is glyphosate resistant and that is all they use.
McIlravy stated, “They should be ashamed of how they have taken care of that property.” Willoughby added that last year was the worst as no one worked the property nor sprayed the weeds.
Trask told the landowners to document everything – amount of weeds, time spent cleaning up, property damage.
John Knutson, Philip, related he too has issues with neighboring property and tumbleweeds. They are stacked up in windbreaks and pushing fences over. Some that fencing is only two years old, he said.
Knutson said it is all preventable. If there are no consequences to landowners not taking care of issues, then they will keep doing it, he said.
Knutson suggested working with Trask and taking it to the state legislature. Smith agreed. He thought Knutson was on the right track. He said he had spoken with Nina Pekron at the Philip National Resources Conservation Service office. He noted he was informed they have no control regarding noxious and other weeds. He questioned why a government entity would continue to give landowners their government program payments if they were not controlling their Canada thistle. “You have to go to the top if we are going to change anything,” he said.
Midland residents Jen Jones and Jeri Fosheim discussed the RESPEC poll for the bore hole project. Public Opinion Strategies was hired by RESPEC to conduct the survey. Commissioner Nick Konst stated he was upset with the poll as it did not have just the question the county wanted, the no, yes, undecided option. Commissioner Gary Snook stated he heard the same from some county residents. He added they answered only question three and sent it back.
The results from the poll should be available to RESPEC and Haakon County Commission sometime during the last full week of May.
Kellie Nixon presented First Western Insurance’s proposal to the board. They will now review the three proposals and make a decisioneither later this month or at the June meeting.
Items approved include:
•meeting minutes from April 4 and 11;
•Surplus of old computer items from veterans service office and emergency management;
•transfer of weed and pest restitution funds from general fund to weed and pest budget;
•an abatement due to entering error;
•four tax freeze requests;
•renewal of malt beverage license for Lake Waggoner Golf Course Clubhouse and a three day license for the matched bronc ride;
•to move the premitigation project reimbursements to commissioner’s budget;
•debt service payment;
•contract with ES&S election software agreement, and
•transfer of Swap money to the road and bridge fund.
The board’s next meeting is Tuesday, May 30, at 9:00 a.m. when they expect to make a decision to support or not support the borehole research project. Their next regular meeting is June 6, at 1:00 p.m.