Arkansas Regulators Vote To Stop An Epidemic Of Herbicide Damage

Dicamba leaf-cupping

❝ Arkansas’s pesticide regulators have stepped into the middle of an epic battle between weeds and chemicals, which has now morphed into a battle between farmers. Hundreds of farmers say their crops have been damaged by a weedkiller that was sprayed on neighboring fields. Today, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to impose an unprecedented ban on that chemical…

The tension — which even led to a farmer’s murder — is over a weedkiller called dicamba. The chemical moved into the weed-control spotlight a few years ago, when Monsanto created soybean and cotton plants that were genetically modified to survive it. Farmers who planted these new seeds could use dicamba to kill weeds without harming those crops…

❝ The problem is, dicamba is a menace to other crops nearby. It drifts easily in the wind, and traditional soybeans are incredibly sensitive to it. “Nobody was quite prepared, despite extensive training, for just how sensitive beans were to dicamba,” says Bob Scott, a specialist on weeds with the University of Arkansas’s agricultural extension service.

❝ As soon as spraying started this spring, the complaints began arriving. By June 23, state regulators had received 242 complaints from farmers who say their crops have been damaged…

On June 20, the Arkansas Plant Board met to consider an emergency ban on further spraying of dicamba, and farmers crowded into the meeting to argue both sides…

At that first meeting, a procedural mix-up prevented the board from holding a valid vote. On June 23, it reconvened and voted, 9-5, to ban any spraying of dicamba on any crops except for pasture land for 120 days. The ban will take effect immediately if the governor of Arkansas signs it.

More and more this sort of solution to weed and pest control appears to be a long-term failure. I don’t know if Monsanto is up for a re-think; but, more and more farmers suffering the “surprises” they keep receiving from Monsanto need to look for alternatives. Not just for dicamba; but, the whole concept of growing crops engineered to be protected from common ills by the saving grace of specific chemicals designed into their genes. I doubt this can ever be a long-term solution.

3 thoughts on “Arkansas Regulators Vote To Stop An Epidemic Of Herbicide Damage

  1. Ka-Ching! says:

    “Soybeans and Spring Wheat Surge After USDA Report” “After a multi-year rout had kept prices in the doldrums, crop futures have picked up steam this month as a drought expanded across the northern reaches of the U.S. Great Plains. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture added to the supply concerns by pegging soybean and spring wheat acres below what analysts had expected.”

  2. David vs. Goliath Inc. says:

    Monsanto wasn’t happy about Arkansas’ regulation of their new herbicide so the multinational agribusiness company sued the self-governing State Plant Board, which regulates the use of pesticides and seeds. It also sued each of the 18 individual board members, mostly farmers and small-business owners who volunteer their time to serve on the board. In most states, regulatory decisions like this one are made by political appointees behind closed doors. In Arkansas, though, the plant board discussed the use of dicamba in public meetings where anyone with an opinion could attend and participate.
    Six farmers also filed a lawsuit, arguing that the makeup of the board violates the Arkansas Constitution because some of the members are selected by industries that the board regulates.
    “We got angry; we didn’t feel that we were able to be heard,” says Michael McCarty, one of the farmers. “…”It gets very emotional,” McCarty says. “We like seeing our fields clean. We like them to be weed-free. And it was a beautiful area last year” when farmers were able to use dicamba on their soybean fields. Proposals have been floated in Arkansas’ legislature to move the board inside the state Department of Agriculture, which would make it less independent.
    See also “Farmers and Environmentalists Sue Trump’s EPA Over Approval of Monsanto’s Disastrous Dicamba Pesticide”

  3. Update says:

    “West Texas Vineyards Blasted By Herbicide Drift From Nearby Cotton Fields” (NPR 8/21/18) In 2017, companies such as Monsanto and Dow released new formulations of old chemicals in that had been used for decades, called dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively. The companies also started selling cotton seeds that had been modified to resist these herbicides. The problem is that these chemicals are more likely to drift into other fields than the older weedkillers did. That is causing a crisis that has swept across agricultural lands nationwide. The crisis has sparked lawsuits. And in Arkansas, a farmer was shot and killed during a drift dispute.
    The same herbicides are being used on soy and other crops in the U.S. Some estimates suggest that drift this year from one of the herbicides, dicamba, has caused over a million acres of damage to vulnerable crops across the country.
    2,4-D was a component of the herbicide and defoliant chemical known as Agent Orange that was used tactically by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War (1961-71)

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