For a long time, organic farmers in Ravalli County have wanted a voice on the county’s weed board. They got more than they bargained for last week when the county commissioners decided to dissolve the existing weed board, because it does not comply with state statues.
This was the second time in the past few months the commissioners took such an action. Last November they dissolved the county planning board after they discovered that it had not been formed as required by Montana law.
The five-member weed board had the same problem when the county started researching its origins. The closer look was occasioned by two public meetings at which a number of organic farmers questioned the county’s approach to weeds, and other citizens questioned the use of herbicides and pesticides on county-owned property, ditch banks and roads.
Research showed the board was not created by resolution and that no bylaws had ever been approved or established for the board. The weed board was formed in 1965 when those items were not required, but the laws have changed and nothing was done to comply with later regulation.
On Tuesday, the Ravalli County Commissioners adopted a resolution formally dissolving the board. They will take on its duties until a new board can be formed under current state law. The commissioners’ resolution will allow the county to contract with the state of Montana for herbicides and pesticides and to continue the planned weed control schedule that is already in place.
In two earlier public meetings, organic farmers sought representation on the weed board, and citizens with allergies and other health concerns voiced their concerns about weed spraying and notification to the community when spraying takes place. At this time citizens can call a weed board hotline to find out what the weekly spray schedule is. However, according to weed control supervisor John Day, not many people take advantage of the service.
The commissioners will establish a list of criteria for potential weed board members and then solicit applications from interested community members. When the planning board was reorganized, more than 40 applicants asked to be selected and none of the former planning board members was chosen. The weed board may be facing similar changes when it is reorganized also.