Panel raises farmer’s dicamba fines

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - STEPHEN STEED ARKANSAS DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE

With an emer­gency ban on the sale and use of dicamba only hours away from tak­ing ef­fect, a sub­com­mit­tee of the state Plant Board on Mon­day took aim at a Mis­souri boot heel cot­ton farmer ac­cused of re­peat­edly spray­ing il­le­gally in Arkansas and dam­ag­ing other farm­ers’ soy­beans.

Richard Zol­man of Ar­byrd, Mo., had agreed to a pro­posed set­tle­ment of $3,200 in fines for five sep­a­rate vi­o­la­tions last year. In­stead, the pes­ti­cide sub­com­mit­tee of the Plant Board voted to levy a $1,000 fine — the max­i­mum un­der cur­rent law — for each vi­o­la­tion, for a to­tal of $5,000.

Dicamba is a widely avail­able her­bi­cide used by farm­ers against pig­weed, which is now re­sis­tant to a glyphosate her­bi­cide com­monly known as Roundup, or in early-sea­son “burn­down” of crop­land prior to plant­ing. How­ever, Zol­man is ac­cused of spray­ing in 2016 when there were no le­gal dicamba her­bi­cides for in-crop use.

As of Mon­day morn­ing, the Plant Board had re­ceived 622 com­plaints of al­leged dicamba dam­age from 23 coun­ties, mostly to soy­bean va­ri­eties that are not ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied to tol­er­ate the her­bi­cide. Other farm­ers are re­port­ing dam­age to fruits and veg­eta­bles. Dam­age to trees, shrubs and pri­vate veg­etable gar­dens in the mid­dle of towns across eastern Arkansas has been re­ported.

Zol­man had sim­i­lar vi­o­la­tions in 2015, said Danny Finch of Jones­boro, a farmer and mem­ber of the Plant Board and its pes­ti­cide sub­com­mit­tee. “These jok­ers did it the year be­fore,” he said. “They sprayed the cheap­est dicamba com­pletely off la­bel.”

Zol­man also was ac­cused

in 2016 of fail­ing to record what chem­i­cals he used, the date he sprayed them, and wind di­rec­tion and tem­per­a­tures — all re­quired un­der state reg­u­la­tions for pes­ti­cide ap­pli­ca­tors.

Finch asked that the pro­posed set­tle­ments — rang­ing from $600 to $800 each — that had been reached be­tween Zol­man and Plant Board reg­u­la­tors be in­creased to the max­i­mum. “These peo­ple are laugh­ing at us,’’ he said.

A new Arkansas law to in­crease penal­ties to as much as $25,000 per vi­o­la­tion won’t take ef­fect un­til Aug. 1 be­cause state House and Sen­ate spon­sors of the leg­is­la­tion that passed this year did not in­clude an emer­gency clause.

“They’re go­ing to keep do­ing this un­til we shut them down,” Finch said. “We have to hit their pock­et­books.

Broke peo­ple don’t farm.”

Zol­man can ap­peal the new pro­posed fines and ask for a hear­ing.

The on­slaught of com­plaints led to the Plant Board’s June 23 rec­om­men­da­tion of a ban on all dicamba sales and use, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son’s en­dorse­ment of the ban on June 30, and the ap­proval Fri­day by two leg­isla­tive com­mit­tees.

Arkansas’ 120-day emer­gency ban took ef­fect at 12:01 a.m. today.

While some farm­ers and leg­is­la­tors last week ques­tioned the ef­fec­tive­ness of a mid­sea­son ban, be­cause many soy­bean farm­ers may be nearly done with spray­ing, Finch said many cot­ton farm­ers are early in their spray­ing sched­ules.

The ban and the stiffer fines will have an ef­fect on farm­ers’ com­pli­ance with the law the rest of the sea­son, he said.

The ban in Arkansas specif­i­cally af­fects BASF’s En­ge­nia her­bi­cide, al­though all

other dicamba for­mu­la­tions on the mar­ket are il­le­gal for in-crop use be­cause they are prone to off- tar­get move­ment.

En­ge­nia may be used on pas­ture­land in Arkansas, with re­stric­tions pre­vi­ously ap­proved by the Plant Board.

In Mis­souri on Fri­day, that state’s agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary in­sti­tuted a tem­po­rary emer­gency ban on three dicamba prod­ucts reg­is­tered in Mis­souri for in-crop use: En­ge­nia, FeXa­pan by DuPont, and Xtendi­max with Va­porGrip by Mon­santo, the St. Louis­based chem­i­cal and seed gi­ant.

Those com­pa­nies’ dicam­babased her­bi­cides were al­lowed into the mar­ket by the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, in part be­cause they con­tain an ad­di­tive that was be­lieved to make them less prone to phys­i­cal drift to ad­ja­cent fields or, un­der the right cli­mate con­di­tions, to con­vert overnight into liq­uid droplets or into a gas and move to

sus­cep­ti­ble fields miles away.

Arkansas farm­ers have planted about 3.5 mil­lion acres of soy­beans this year. Mon­santo has said its dicamba-tol­er­ant beans are on about 1.5 mil­lion acres in Arkansas, while BASF has said its En­ge­nia dicamba is on about 700,000 acres.

Arkansas farm­ers have planted 440,000 acres of cot­ton this year, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s es­ti­mates ear­lier this month. About 70 per­cent of that cot­ton is dicamba tol­er­ant.

Whether in soy­beans or cot­ton, some farm­ers planted dicamba-tol­er­ant seeds, with no in­ten­tion of us­ing the her­bi­cide, as buf­fer zones for their other crops.

At the time of an­nounc­ing the ban in Mis­souri, of­fi­cials there re­ported re­ceiv­ing 134 com­plaints. Mis­sis­sippi of­fi­cials have re­ported 56. Kansas of­fi­cials have re­ported 40. Ten­nessee had re­ceived about 30 com­plaints as of late June.

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