Broader Perspective on Dicamba Issues

Pam Smith indicated this week at DTN that, “My neighbor has a dog that won’t stay home. The mutt is of questionable bloodline, but there’s little doubt about his bark and his bite. He’s successfully attacked me twice.

“Encounters and complaints from several neighbors finally resulted in the dog’s owner fencing his property. However, the dog still manages to, on occasion, sneak into my yard to dish out some terrorism before heading another quarter-mile down the road to indulge in live chicken dinners.

“There’s been a lot of big talk and chest thumping in the neighborhood about what happens next. As a dog lover and peaceful soul, I’m conflicted. However, the thought of fencing my own property to keep someone else’s dog out does not seem just either.”

Ms. Smith noted that, “Sound familiar? It should. Across the farm belt a similar dog-eat-dog power struggle is going on over a new seed trait and herbicide. Monsanto’s new Xtend technology that allows crops to withstand dicamba was developed to give farmers another tool to tackle troublesome weeds. But the dicamba herbicide used in that system is now being accused of chemically trespassing and injuring susceptible crops and plants.”

The DTN article stated that, “As with any legitimate issue, there are plenty of points on each side. However, when EPA finally issued a label for the three herbicides (XtendiMax, FeXapan and Engenia) to be used with the Xtend trait, it gave it a two-year conditional label that challenged applicators to get it right or lose access to the technology. At DTN, we spent the better part of the winter reporting on the many label restrictions and what it would take to spray Xtend crops properly.

“As with any new technology, we assumed some growing pains. But the number of formal misuse and injury complaints tied to dicamba are proof we have a problem and not, as some suggest, only in Southern states. Reports of dicamba symptoms are now being recorded across the Midwest.”

Ms. Smith went on to explain that, “The wounding in terms of crop yield remains to be seen, but the issue is now tearing at the fabric of rural America. Last year our jaws dropped when an Arkansas farmer allegedly died at the hands of another, reportedly over dicamba-drift issues. Sadly, that horrible incident seems less far-fetched the longer the verbal brawling over the right to spray versus the right to protect wages on.

“Farmers that I personally know have come to blows this summer over dicamba. Other farmers that have come forth to share their stories have received threatening messages. As neighbors face off against neighbors, the lawyers are lining up.

“We need to take a collective breath. If dicamba trait technology is indeed a tool that we can’t live without (a thought that has serious implications in its own right), then the agriculture community needs to come together and figure out why injury is occurring and what to do about it.

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