Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Required on Public Lands

USFS certified forage sign.

Noxious weeds have a destructive impact on Montana's landscape, displacing native plant species, increasing soil erosion, and decreasing wildlife habitat as well as compromising recreational values.

Preventing the spread of noxious weeds into our pristine back country is vital. Certified noxious weed seed free forage is required when horses or pack animals are used on public land in Montana. Government agencies and public utilities also are required to use weed free mulches, bedding materials and erosion control barriers in their work.

How can YOU help reduce the spread of noxious weeds?

Feed ride and pack animals certified NWSFF hay at least three days prior to going on county, state or federal lands to ensure any previously consumed weed seeds pass through the animal while transitioning over to the weed free hay.

Use certified NWSFF hay and straw for 4-H and rodeo events at county fairgrounds. National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and State lands require the use of certified forage and each bale or bag of feed must have an approved NWSFF marker (twine, tags, or label). Know before you GO!

BUY SMART! Choose certified NWSFF hay or straw for use on your own property. This helps prevent the spread of noxious weeds along with SAVING yourself money in the future on weed control efforts. Once a noxious weed population is established, controlling it can be expensive and develop into a long term battle to reach eradication.

Find a Certified Producer and Forage

How do you find certified Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage (NWSFF) Products?

You are required to use certified forage on public lands, but it is also a benefit to use certified hay or straw on your own property to prevent getting a new noxious weed and the expense of controlling it on your land.

Producer Certification

How do you certify your field as Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage (NWSFF)?

  • Field inspections must be completed within 7 days prior to cutting your hay or within 14 days of  harvesting a grain field for straw.  A field must be inspected before you cut or harvest and for each cutting of hay. SEE BELOW an interactive map to locate an inspector near you.
  • Pay a $4.50/acre fee for each acre inspected or $45.00 for a field that is 10 acres or less.
  • Use one of the approved NWSFF markers on your hay/forage product, which include:small square baler twine 170 and 210
    1. Colored twine (blue and orange), only one strand of colored twine is required per bale.  Types of twine: 
      1. Round baler:  140/20,000 ($50/box),
      2. Small square baler:  170/9600 or 210/9600 ($50/box or banded rolls), and
      3. Big square baler: 400/4000 ($40/roll - 2 rolls required to complete one strand).
    2. Tags ($50/bag – 100 tags/bag) are required on every bale of hay/straw that is sold.
  • Complete a transportation certificate for the forage product sold. It is the responsibility of each producer to make sure that all certified NWSFF sold under the program is properly labeled and identified with transportation certificates before it leaves the premises.
  • A field can also be regionally certified if the field meets the North American Standards for being weed free, which includes additional weed species, such as quackgrass, musk thistle, and wild oats, which the field will be inspected for in addition to the Montana list of noxious weeds. Once a field is regionally certified then that forage can be used out-of-state.
  • Fields that appear weedy or show poor crop practices, even though noxious weeds are not present, will not be NWSFF certified. An example of this is a field with excessive tumble mustard, kochia, Western salsify, etc.

Click on the symbols, showing NWSFF inspector location, to see contact information on Montana's certified inspectors. Click on "Legend" at the top of the map to see what type of inspector the symbols represent.

 2019 Inspector Map

Certified NWSFF Inspectors

How do you become a Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage (NWSFF) Inspector?

Complete the initial certification process by:

  • Reading and understanding the NWSFF Inspector’s Manual (see "Forms & Files" below),
  • Attending a Department of Agriculture training course that covers the NWSFF Act and Administrative Rules, field inspection techniques, how to complete the required forms, map reading, and treatment methods for weed management,
  • Passing the NWSFF exam with a score of 80 percent or better, and
  • Then an ID number and identification card will be issued to the inspector.

NWSFF Inspectors will be recertified on an annual basis prior to the growing season.

Please contact Rory Ruffner at 406-444-7819 or rory.ruffner@mt.gov for training session scheduling info.

Current NWSFF
Inspectors Annual

Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Education

PlayCleanGo Logo


The Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage (NWSFF) Program has partnered with a national campaign, PlayCleanGo. The message of this national campaign is "Stop Invasive Species in YOUR Tracks" and it encourages outdoor recreationalists to be smart about recreating and follow these simple, but effective actions:

  • Arrive with clean gear.
  • Burn local or certified firewood.
  • User certified weed free hay.
  • Stay on designated roads and trails.
  • Before leaving, remove mud and weed seeds.

Any organization or program can become a PlayCleanGo partner to help recreationists understand the link between outdoor recreation and pathways of spread for terrestrial invasive species. For more information visit playcleango.org and like PlayCleanGo on Facebook!

Play Clean Go - Horseback Riding from Orijin Media on Vimeo.

Montana Noxious Weed Education Campaign (MNWEC) Logo

Montana Noxious Weed Education Campaign (MNWEC)

The NWSFF Program also has an important partnership with the MNWEC, a grassroots campaign that works with agencies and non-governmental organizations to produce noxious weed education materials and to promote weed awareness. Take a few minutes to explore all of the noxious weed prevention efforts in Montana by visiting weedawareness.org, and like the MNWEC on Facebook!

For more information about the AATM program contact Shantell Frame-Martin, MNWEC Project Coordinator, (406) 328-4785, shantell.frame@montand.edu.

Adopt-A-Trailhead Montana (AATM)

Adopt-A-Trailhead Montana (AATM) Logo

This program is a cooperative volunteer program to help protect Montana’s trails from further spread of noxious weeds. The Adopt-A-Trailhead program relies heavily on the dedication and involvement of volunteer groups from across the state. The steps to becoming an AATM volunteer group include:

  • Select a trailhead of interest.
  • Get group approval and support for participating in the project.
  • Work with Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management officials or the local entity where the trailhead is located.
  • Select a day that works best for group members to meet and perform removal of noxious weeds at the selected trailhead.

For more information about the AATM program contact Shantell Frame-Martin, MNWEC Project Coordinator, 406-444-9491, shantell.frame@montand.edu or Rory Ruffner, NWSFF Program Coordinator, 406-444-7819, rory.ruffner@mt.gov.

Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Advisory Council

Advises the Department on Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage issues regarding the forage certification program, forage advertising, and the use of Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage on federal/state lands.

The Council is made up of 10 members including the Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. Council members represent different groups such as producers, guides and outfitters, weed districts, and pellet manufacturers. The Council recommends inspection fees and marker costs which are regulated by program Rules. The Rules provide a mechanism to standardize fees, inspection procedures, enforcement actions, marking and tracking systems.

Upcoming Meeting

Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Advisory Council Meeting
Date: February 19, 2020
Where: Montana Dept. of Agriculture, 302 N Roberts St, Helena, MT 59601
Time: 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Place: Conference Room #225

Council Members

Name City Term End Representing
Ben Thomas, Director MT Dept. of Agriculture
PO Box 200201
Helena, MT 59620
  Department Director and Council Chair
Vacant (2)
Forage Producer
Wade Durham PO Box 234
Camberon, MT 59720
9/17/2020 Outfitters and Guides
Margie Edsall PO Box 278
Virginia City, MT 59755
9/17/2020 Madison County Weed District
Joe Lockwood 3319 King Ave East
Billings, MT 59101
9/17/2020 Yellowstone County Weed District
Jim Melin 305 Mill Creek Rd
Livingston, MT 59047
9/17/2020 Forage Producer
Chuck Miller 926 Orchard Rd
Hamilton, MT 59840
9/17/2022 Forage Producer
Vince Muggli 72 Muggli Lane
Miles City, MT 59301
9/17/2020 Feed Pellets/Cube Products
Bob Rangitsch 2777 Kleinschmidt Flat Rd
Ovando, MT 59854
9/17/2021 Livestock/Agriculture
Darrin Boss 3710 Assiniboine
Havre, MT 59501
Ex Officio Montana State University Ag Experiment Station
Emily Meccage PO Box 173120
Bozeman, MT 59717
Ex Officio Montana State University Extension Service
Wendy Velman 5001 Southgate Dr
Billings, MT 59102
Agency Representative Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Michelle Cox PO Box 7669
Missoula, MT 59807
Agency Representative USDA Forest Service
Heather Unverzagt PO Box 173140
Bozeman, MT 59717
Agency Representative Montana Seed Growers Association

NWSFF Advisory Council Openings

The Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage (NWSFF) Advisory Council is currently accepting applications. Click here to download the application form. Send questions or completed application forms to agr@mt.gov.


Noxious Weed News

Public Meeting Notice: Noxious Weed Management Advisory Council Business Meeting & Noxious Weed Trust Fund Grant Hearings

March 2 - 6, 2020 in Helena, MT

Public Meeting Notice: Noxious Weed Management Advisory Council Business Meeting & Noxious Weed Trust Fund Grant Hearings

The Noxious Weed Management Advisory Council will meet from March 2 - 6, 2020 at the Great Northern Hotel (835 Great Northern Blvd.) in Helena, Montana.  The Noxious Weed Trust Fund Grant Hearings will take place during this time.  An agenda will be posted soon.

Click to learn more about the Noxious Weed Trust Fund.

Public Meeting Notice: Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Advisory Council

February 19th in Helena, MT

Public Meeting Notice: Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Advisory Council

The Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Advisory Council will meet on Wednesday, February 19th from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. in Conference Room 225 at the Montana Department of Agriculture (302 N. Roberts, Helena, MT).

Click to learn more about the NWSFF Advisory Council.

Ventenata Added to Montana Noxious Weed List

Learn to identify ventenata in the field

Ventenata Added to Montana Noxious Weed List

Helena, Mont. – The Montana Department of Agriculture has updated its noxious weed list to include ventenata (Ventenata dubia). The Noxious Weed Listing Workgroup recommended adding ventenata to the Priority 2A list at its meeting on March 21, 2019. The amendment was adopted on June 21st, 2019. Priority 2A weeds are common in isolated areas in the State and require eradication or containment where less abundant. Management can be prioritized by the local weed districts.

Currently Vacant
Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Program Coordinator

Phone: (406) 444-7819
E-mail: Rory.ruffner@mt.gov

Montana Noxious Weed Program
Phone: (406) 444-3144
E-mail: agr@mt.gov 302 N Roberts
Helena, MT 59601

Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Forms & Files

To download a file in the table below, click on a file Title to highlight it, then click on the Download File Download Icon or Get URL File Link URL Icon icons at the top right of the table, OR click directly on a file Name.
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