I have not located any specific statute or code within Adair County which per se regulates the distance of crops to a residential property line. In general, there is no restriction on how close a farmer may plant crops to a residential property line in Iowa. However, there are some minimum distance requirements based on farming activities.
The Iowa statutes provide several minimum distance requirements for farmers depending on the type of activity being done by the farmer. For instance, if a farmer is applying "liquid manure" as fertilizer, the minimum distance between this activity and your property line must be 750 feet. Another example would be irrigation in conjunction with liquid manure fertilizer. If a farmer is irrigating, then there must be at least 100 feet between the perimeter of the "wetted area" and your property line. Further, there must be at least 250 feet between the property line and the actual irrigation system.
Nevertheless, even if your next door neighbor is in compliance with the statutory code, you still potentially have a claim against him for "nuisance." Nuisance is the claim one brings when the actions of someone else disturbs your right to peacefully enjoy your property. Thus, for instance, if the farming operations next door caused unreasonably loud noises, or caused dust or debris to fall onto your property, you could sue to stop this through Nuisance and request that the court issue an injunction barring such damaging activity within a specific distance from your property.
Iowa Code 657.1 states that Nuisance is "1. Whatever is injurious to health, indecent, or unreasonably offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as essentially to interfere unreasonably with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, is a nuisance, and a civil action
by ordinary proceedings may be brought to enjoin and abate the nuisance and to recover damages sustained on account of the nuisance. A petition filed under this subsection shall include the legal description of the real property upon which the nuisance is located unless the nuisance is not situated on or confined to a parcel of real property or is portable or capable of being removed from the real property."
Iowa Code 657.2 defines a non-exhaustive list of nuisances:
"The following are nuisances:
1. The erecting, continuing, or using any building or other place for the exercise of any trade, employment, or manufacture, which, by occasioning noxious exhalations, unreasonably offensive smells, or other annoyances, becomes injurious and dangerous to the health, comfort, or property of individuals or the public.
2. The causing or suffering any offal, filth, or noisome substance to be collected or to remain in any place to the prejudice of others.
3. The obstructing or impeding without legal authority the passage of any navigable river, harbor, or collection of water.
4. The corrupting or rendering unwholesome or impure the water of any river, stream, or pond, or unlawfully diverting the same from its natural course or state, to the injury or prejudice of others.
5. The obstructing or encumbering by fences, buildings, or otherwise the public roads, private ways, streets, alleys, commons, landing places, or burying grounds.
6. Houses of ill fame, kept for the purpose of prostitution and lewdness, gambling houses, places resorted to by persons participating in criminal gang activity prohibited by chapter 723A, or places resorted to by persons using controlled substances, as defined in section 124.101, subsection 5, in violation of law, or houses where drunkenness, quarreling, fighting, or breaches of the peace are carried on or permitted to the disturbance of others.
7. Billboards, signboards, and advertising signs, whether erected and constructed on public or private property, which so obstruct and impair the view of any portion or part of a public street, avenue, highway, boulevard, or alley or of a railroad or street railway track as to render dangerous the use thereof.
8. Any object or structure hereafter erected within one thousand feet of the limits of any municipal or regularly established airport or landing place, which may endanger or obstruct aerial navigation, including take-off and landing, unless such object or structure constitutes a proper use or enjoyment of the land on which the same is located.
9. The depositing or storing of flammable junk, such as old rags, rope, cordage, rubber, bones, and paper, by dealers in such articles within the fire limits of a city, unless in a building of fireproof construction, is a public nuisance.
10. The emission of dense smoke, noxious fumes, or fly ash in cities is a nuisance and cities may provide the necessary rules for inspection, regulation and control.
11. Dense growth of all weeds, vines, brush, or other vegetation in any city so as to constitute a health, safety, or fire hazard is a public nuisance.
12. Trees infected with Dutch elm disease in cities."
Thus, the if the farming activity is specifically causing any of the foregoing nuisances, then you have a statutory claim for nuisance against your neighbor.
Your best bet is to first file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture regard the farmer's use of the land and requesting a limitation on the use because of the potential nuisance effect on your property. The next step would be to send a demand letter to the farmer claiming that the farming activities constitute a nuisance and that you are incurring damages because of that nuisance to the peaceful enjoyment of your property. The final step would be to hire a local attorney to file suit to enjoin the neighbor from farming activities within an unreasonable distance from your property line.
Please let me know if you have any further questions on this issue.
Zachary D. Norris