Arkansas, Missouri Take Action on Dicamba Use

Bryce Gray reported in Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch that, “Crop damage from the last growing season is done, but Missouri and Arkansas lawmakers are taking steps that aim to prevent future devastation from dicamba, the herbicide widely blamed for a rash of illegal spraying that sowed financial pain and discord in farming communities across the region.

Arkansas set a bold example last week, when the state’s Plant Board passed restrictions that would only permit the use of certain types of dicamba and would only allow one variety to be applied from April 15 through Sept. 15 — when warm temperatures make the herbicide more susceptible to forming vapor and drifting to nearby fields, where it can damage any crops that aren’t genetically modified to tolerate it.”

Mr. Gray explained that, “Interestingly, the variety approved for use throughout the growing season in Arkansas is Engenia, from chemical company BASF, and not Xtendimax, the new herbicide from Creve Coeur-based Monsanto. Xtendimax, which Monsanto has touted as being less volatile , was not approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency until late 2016 even though the company started selling crop varieties resistant to the herbicide in 2015.

Despite its absence for two full growing seasons, many growers with dicamba-tolerant seed are suspected of spraying illegal alternatives not authorized for use. Drift from those ‘off-label’ forms of dicamba is the presumed culprit behind scores of crop damage complaints in southeast Missouri, and is even believed to have incited deadly violence, with a Missouri man facing murder charges in the October shooting death of an Arkansas farmer just across the state line.

Under Arkansas’ new policy, Engenia will even be eligible for use on Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean varieties.”

The Post-Dispatch article added that, “In Missouri, meanwhile, state Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, has introduced three bills aiming to avoid a repeat of the scenario that unfolded on farms across his Bootheel district last summer.

“Rone last week introduced two bills that would amend the approval process for herbicides and herbicide-resistant seed in Missouri. One of them, House Bill 605, would require the Missouri Department of Agriculture to determine whether herbicides sold in the state are ‘inherently volatile‘ and develop usage restrictions for those meeting certain criteria. The other, HB 606, would prohibit the sale of herbicide-resistant seed if the corresponding herbicide has not also garnered approval.

“But Rone described the legislation introduced Thursday as the biggest of the three. He said that bill, HB 662, would raise existing fines for illegal herbicide use from $1,000 per field to $1,000 per acre.”

“Farmers have criticized existing fines for being woefully insufficient to deter wrongdoers. Rone said he did not want to pursue restrictions like those implemented in Arkansas, arguing that growers need access to new herbicides,” yesterday’s article said.

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