A Tues­day dicamba ban faces one if

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - STEPHEN STEED

A 120-day emer­gency ban on the sale and use of dicamba will take ef­fect at 12:01 a.m. Tues­day un­less the Arkansas Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil ob­jects.

The panel’s eight-mem­ber ex­ec­u­tive sub­com­mit­tee took no ac­tion Fri­day af­ter­noon on the ban, which was pro­posed on June 23 by the state Plant Board, a di­vi­sion of the state De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture. The sub­com­mit­tee’s in­ac­tion fol­lowed a three-hour meet­ing of the House and Se­nate com­mit­tees on agri­cul­ture, forestry and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The ban also had been en­dorsed, with some re­luc­tance, by Gov. Asa Hutchin­son.

The Plant Board has re­ceived more than 600 com­plaints of al­leged dicamba dam­age to soy­beans, cot­ton, fruits and veg­eta­bles since the first week of June.

Sen. Jonathan Dis­mang, RBeebe, said the lack of ac­tion by the ex­ec­u­tive sub­com­mit­tee re­flected some law­mak­ers’ mis­giv­ings about ban­ning a her­bi­cide in the mid­dle of farm­ers’ grow­ing sea­son but added, “We can’t say the Plant Board made the wrong de­ci­sion.”

Arkansas farm­ers have planted about 1.5 mil­lion acres of dicamba-tol­er­ant soy­beans, de­vel­oped by Mon­santo. An­other 1.5 mil­lion acres of Arkansas soy­beans, how­ever, aren’t ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied and are highly sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age by the her­bi­cide, as are fruits, veg­eta­bles, shrubs and trees.

Only one dicamba-based her­bi­cide — BASF’s En­ge­nia — is le­gal in Arkansas this year for in-crop use as a de­fense against pig­weed. All other for­mu­la­tions of dicamba are il­le­gal be­cause of

their propen­sity to drift or to lift from tar­geted crops at night, dur­ing a cli­mate process called in­ver­sion, and move, in ei­ther a gas or liq­uid form, to dis­tant fields.

Plant Board in­spec­tors are still look­ing into whether En­ge­nia is mov­ing off tar­get to sus­cep­ti­ble plants, whether it’s be­ing mis­ap­plied by farm­ers and whether farm­ers are us­ing il­le­gal but less-ex­pen­sive dicamba for­mu­la­tions. Law­mak­ers need an­swers to those ques­tions and oth­ers, Dis­mang said. En­ge­nia would fall un­der the ban.

The ban will take ef­fect early Tues­day un­less a ma­jor­ity of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil’s 60 mem­bers sign a let­ter by Mon­day re­quest­ing a meet­ing on the pro­posal, said Dis­mang, who also is Se­nate pres­i­dent pro tem­pore. Dis­mang told re­porters af­ter the sub­com­mit­tee’s meet­ing that he didn’t ex­pect law­mak­ers to take that ac­tion. Such a meet­ing, by law, also must be held by Mon­day, Dis­mang said.

Ear­lier Fri­day, law­mak­ers on House and Se­nate agri­cul­ture com­mit­tees heard tes­ti­mony from about 20 farm­ers and oth­ers be­fore vot­ing to sup­port the Plant Board’s ban.

David Wildy, who farms cot­ton, soy­beans, corn and peanuts in Mis­sis­sippi County, said he will sus­tain about $1 mil­lion in crop losses this sea­son. He said that es­ti­mate was con­ser­va­tive.

“This is the worst and most con­tentious is­sue I’ve seen in my 43 years of farm­ing,” Wildy said.

Wildy said farm­ers need new tech­nol­ogy “but we can’t tol­er­ate any tech­nol­ogy that won’t stay on tar­get.” A 120day ban, he said, “is not un­rea­son­able.” Perry Gal­loway of Gregory in Woodruff County told law­mak­ers he op­posed the ban. He said En­ge­nia is work­ing well on his dicamba-tol­er­ant crops, with one ex­cep­tion: His dicamba drifted onto a neigh­bor’s con­ven­tional beans. “That wasn’t the tech­nol­ogy’s fault. That was my fault,” he said. “We were hav­ing some good luck [against weeds], and we might have pushed the wind [lim­its] a lit­tle.”

While he is mostly fin­ished with is spray­ing, Gal­loway said, a ban will push some farm­ers into us­ing il­le­gal for­mu­la­tions of dicamba.

Karen Hawkins of Leachville, whose brother, Mike Wal­lace, was shot and killed in Oc­to­ber dur­ing a dis­pute with an­other farmer over dicamba dam­age to Wal­lace’s soy­beans, said her fam­ily and farm friends pleaded last fall with the Plant Board to in­sti­tute a ban on all dicamba prod­ucts this sea­son. The board, in­stead, ap­proved the En­ge­nia prod­uct but with re­stric­tions.

Her fam­ily’s peanuts have suf­fered dicamba dam­age, she said, as have veg­eta­bles from a 10-acre plot in­side Leachville city lim­its. “There’s not a dicamba field for at least a quar­ter-mile,” she said.

Soy­beans at a Univer­sity of Arkansas ex­per­i­ment sta­tion and at two fields op­er­ated by Bayer Crop Sci­ence are the fo­cus among the lat­est com­plaints of dicamba dam­age.

Bayer, which this year opened a $6 mil­lion soy­bean breed­ing and re­search cen­ter in Mar­ion in Crit­ten­den County, filed two com­plaints June 26, al­leg­ing dam­age to soy­bean fields near Mar­ion and at Etowah in Mis­sis­sippi County. The com­plaint re­port didn’t spec­ify how much acreage was dam­aged or iden­tify a farmer or her­bi­cide ap­pli­ca­tor who may have sprayed the her­bi­cide.

Ryan Sul­li­van, Bayer’s farm man­ager who filed the com­plaint, de­clined to com­ment ear­lier this week.

On June 23, of­fi­cials at the Lon Mann Cot­ton Re­search Sta­tion at Mar­i­anna re­ported dam­age to soy­beans along Arkansas 1 in Lee County. The re­search sta­tion is op­er­ated by the Univer­sity of Arkansas Sys­tem’s Di­vi­sion of Agri­cul­ture. An­other UA soy­bean test plot, at Keiser in Mis­sis­sippi County, was dam­aged in June, resulting in about 100 acres of beans be­ing plowed up and re­planted.

“Most of the soy­beans show symp­toms of dicamba dam­age to vary­ing de­grees,” Claude Kennedy, the res­i­dent di­rec­tor of the Mar­i­anna re­search sta­tion, said.

“This is my first ex­pe­ri­ence with it,” Kennedy said of the her­bi­cide. “The beans got hit in the early growth stages. Some say there’s a chance of it grow­ing out of the dam­age. But if dicamba hits dur­ing the bloom­ing stages, a loss in yield will be much worse.”

Cot­ton at the re­search farm, so far, is un­scathed, he said.

In Mis­souri, where farm­ers filed more than 120 com­plaints a year ago, Agri­cul­ture De­part­ment of­fi­cials have re­ported 123 dicamba-re­lated com­plaints this year. Af­ter ac­cept­ing com­plaints last year by tele­phone, Mis­souri of­fi­cials now re­quire for­mal com­plaints to be filed on pa­per. Arkansas of­fi­cials ac­cept com­plaints by tele­phone.

On Fri­day, Mis­souri banned the sale and use of dicamba.

Agri­cul­ture of­fi­cials in Mis­sis­sippi and Ten­nessee also have re­ported an in­crease in com­plaints as farm­ers get deeper into spray­ing sched­ules.

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