Dicamba and Legal Options for Herbicide Damage

Production issues and potential damage to soybean crops from dicamba, a powerful herbicide that is  prone to drifting into neighboring fields, has been an issue that has garnered recent attention in the press.

For producers who have suffered crop damage due to a neighbors use of dicamba, and are seeking compensation for yield losses, Wall Street Journal writer Jacob Bunge recently explained that, “While state regulators can fine farmers for illegal spraying, they can’t compensate neighboring farmers for losses, a separate process typically worked out between neighbors on country roads, or through civil lawsuits.”

More broadly, DTN writer Emily Unglesbee reported yesterday that, “The legal path to compensation for a herbicide-damaged crop is long and complex, but there is one simple part: Don’t expect crop insurance to kick in.

“‘Multi-peril crop insurance is to insure against naturally occurring disasters or problems, like hail storms,’ said University of Missouri agricultural economist Ray Massey. ‘Dicamba drift, or any herbicide drift, is a management problem and isn’t covered.’

“With a record number of suspected-dicamba-injury cases being reported in parts of the Midwest and South, farmers may find litigation is their most likely source of compensation, said Ted Feitshans, a North Carolina State University Extension professor who covers environmental and agricultural law.”

The DTN article stated that, “Trying to negotiate compensation with the farmer or applicator whom you suspect caused the problem is the simplest first step, but beware of the possible consequences, Feitshans said. He recommends immediately contacting your state department of agriculture and then dialing a lawyer, particularly if you don’t know or trust the person behind the herbicide drift.”

And Ms. Unglesbee added that, “The most important step is proving the presence of the suspected chemical on your farm, Feitshans said. That means getting the damaged field tested and taking detailed pictures of the damage with time stamps and detailed notes to authenticate them.

“A state department investigation’s findings are extremely valuable, because they are a neutral third party with respected testing standards, Feitshans said.

“If possible, don’t wait for damage to show up before reporting a suspected drift event. Dicamba dissipates fairly quickly in a field, so the faster you can get a sample tested, the better, he said.”

The DTN article also pointed to additional information about pesticide drift issues from the University of Illinois and the National Agricultural Law Center.

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