Exotic, non-indigenous weeds whether purposefully or inadvertently introduced are capable of reducing crop and livestock production, increasing production costs and postharvest crop losses through direct competition with agricultural crops. Nationwide, direct non-indigenous weed costs are estimated to be $3.6 to $5.4 billion annually. Additionally, the environmental, human health, regulatory and other indirect costs of using herbicides exceed $1 billion annually. The impact in North Carolina attributed to cost of herbicides, loss in yield, loss in quality, loss in extra land preparation and cultivation, loss in land value, and loss in increased cost of harvesting is currently estimated at over 165 million dollars each year.
Issues relating to environmental quality have also come to prominence recently as the general public focuses more specifically on the impacts of herbicides on the immediate environment. Agricultural producers in the United States currently spend approximately $3.6 billion annually on weed control at the farm level. Growing concerns relating to the contribution of agricultural chemicals to groundwater contamination, the effects of herbicides on non-target areas, and documentation of resistant weed populations have spawned apprehension over the heavy reliance on continued long-term use of herbicides. Additionally, many introduced weeds have significantly impacted on native plant species resulting in an alteration of wetland ecosystems.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) Weed Regulatory Program was established to protect North Carolina agriculture and its citizens from the invasion and spread of noxious weeds. State Noxious Weed Regulations, adopted under authority of the N. C. Plant Pest Law, permit the Department to aggressively prevent the entry and subsequent spread of noxious weeds into North Carolina and to address the movement of noxious weeds and regulated articles within the state. In addition, the General Assembly of North Carolina has adopted the Aquatic Weed Control Act providing the Department of Agriculture with the authority to regulate the importation, sale, use, and distribution of noxious aquatic weeds. As implemented, the law and regulations provide the long-term mechanisms for protecting North Carolina agriculture and its citizens from the threat of terrestrial and aquatic noxious weeds. The NCDA&CS works extensively with noxious weed pests such as witchweed, itchgrass, orobanche, purple loosestrife and musk thistle.