Weed-Free Hay Certification Program LaunchedTue, 20 Jul 2010 15:34:30 CDT
State hay growers have not been able to sell hay or mulch to contractors working on federal construction projects because Oklahoma had no program to certify their products as "weed free" as required by law. That will change next week as a new certification process goes into effect.
Created by HB 1583 by State Senator, Ron Justice and State Representative, Eddie Fields, the Oklahoma Weed Free Certification Program will allow growers to have their hay meadows inspected up to 10 days before cutting. Jeannetta Cooper, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry Consumer Protection Service coordinator, said if the inspector finds no evidence of noxious weeds, the producer will be able to receive certification, identification tags for the hay bales and a Transit Certificate if necessary.
The program is not free. The non-refundable application fee is $25. Inspections will cost a minimum of $200 depending on how many acres are involved. Cooper said costs are determined at a rate of $50 per hour with a four hour minimum, or $3 per acre, whichever is most. Identification tags will also cost 25 cents each.
In addition to making Oklahoma grown hay more valuable to construction contractors, horse owners can have a source for certified hay to take with them to national parks and other states with certification requirements. Since 2005 visitors to national forests and grasslands in the Rocky Mountain region have been required to only take hay, cubed hay, straw and other forage products certified weed-free by a sanctioned program.
This has affected many trail riders and sportsmen who have been forced to purchase hay out of state or break the law. Cooper notes that federal law recognizes bermuda grass as a noxious weed and therefore bermuda grass meadows cannot be certified.
Bermuda grass is a very hardy grass that tends to take over meadows after being established and is therefore banned from national parks and wilderness areas where it could threaten native plants.
In addition to adding value to the state's hay crop, ODAFF believes the new program will reduce the introduction and spread of noxious weeds, increase producer awareness of their role in weed management and reduce weed infestations. For more information contact Jeanetta Cooper, ODAFF, PO Box 528804, Oklahoma City, OK 73152-8804, (405) 522-5971.
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