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Arkansas Poised To Ban Dicamba Weedkiller

A soybean field in Jasper County, Iowa, in 2016
File: Amy Mayer
Harvest Public Media
A soybean field in Jasper County, Iowa, in 2016

Regulators in Arkansas have proposed to effectively ban farmers from using a controversial weedkiller produced by Monsanto that is thought to be destroying crops after drifting in the wind.

The Arkansas State Plant Board proposed a ban on using the herbicide dicamba on cotton and soybeans from April 16 to October 31, essentially the entire growing season. ( PDF)

Thousands of farmers all over the country have complained of crop damage from dicamba. Estimates put the area damaged at more than 3 million acres nationwide.

Farmers spray dicamba to kill weeds. Some varieties of soybeans and cotton are genetically engineered to withstand the chemical. Dicamba, though, is suspected of drifting in the wind onto neighboring farms in the range of crops not genetically engineered to withstand doses of the weedkiller, causing widespread damage.

Though the herbicide has been in use for decades, a new chemical formulation and new usage patterns may to be blame for the damage.

Monsanto, however, wrote in an open letter to farmers, “The overwhelming majority of farmers are experiencing tremendous success during this first year of commercial launch.” The company says it is studying the reports of damage, and suggests that farmers using the weedkiller improperly may be the cause of reported damage.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also considering placing restrictions on the use of dicamba. In July, Missouri and Arkansas instituted temporary bans on dicamba sales and use.

In Arkansas, the plant board’s motion is not final. After a comment period and a public hearing, the Arkansas Legislative Council will have final say. A public hearing is scheduled for November 8.

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