If national parks would enforce requirements that only certified noxious weed-seed-free hay be fed horses while on those lands, hay growers may actually have a market to produce for. So says Harlan Anderson, Cokato, MN, grower and entrepreneur.

“It is a good program,” he said after reading last week’s eHay Weekly article on various weed-seed-free programs, including Minnesota’s. “But it has been very difficult to get off the ground.” Horse owners, he said, have told him that park officials in some states let them feed uncertified hay while on trail rides. That means those horse owners have little incentive to buy certified hay.

Some states ask horse owners to voluntarily feed certified weed-seed-free hay to horses while on public lands. In states like Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Utah and Colorado, however, horse owners are required by law to feed horses certified weed-seed-free hay.

“We don’t have check stations,” said Dave Burch, weed program manager with the Montana Department of Agriculture. “But rangers and game wardens will stop people and, if they don’t have certified hay, they’ll turn them back … or tell them to leave. They are susceptible to fines as well. For the most part, the hunters and back country users know that they have to have it (certified hay) when they come to Montana.”

The weed-seed-free hay and straw state programs require growers to go through a certification process guaranteeing that their hay or straw is cut and baled before noxious weed seeds have formed. Their goal: to keep noxious weeds from spreading on national parks and other public grounds. Certified weed-seed-free straw is also required by some state transportation departments for road construction.

But some transportation departments are not enforcing the use of the certified products, Anderson said. A few construction contractors he knows said they need to buy just a few certified bales for show. “They (the state transportation department) don’t come out and check, anyway,” he said he was told. Anderson has certified hay and straw for sale but estimates that he hasn’t sold more than 100 bales in the last five years.

Montana’s weed-seed-free forage program, however, is expanding, said Burch. A media campaign was recently launched asking property owners to use certified forage on their own lands.

For more on the Montana program, visit www.agr.mt.gov/weedpest/nwsff.asp. To contact Anderson, email idleacres@cmgate.com. To see a listing of noxious weed-seed-free hay programs, visit hayandforage.com/links/hay/weed-seed-free-programs.