Farm­ers’ es­ti­mates of her­bi­cide dam­age top 120,000 acres

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

Com­plaints of crop dam­age in Arkansas pos­si­bly caused by a her­bi­cide topped 700 this week, and pre­lim­i­nary es­ti­mates put the dam­aged crop­land at 122,000 acres, a sub­com­mit­tee of the state Plant Board was told Fri­day.

As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, the board had re­ceived 726 com­plaints from 25 coun­ties, mostly along the Arkansas Delta, where cot­ton and soy­beans are the pri­mary crops. One month ago, the tally stood at 207 com­plaints.

Plant Board in­spec­tors in­ves­ti­gat­ing the com­plaints “have looked at ev­ery­thing but 50 fields,” Susie Ni­chols, man­ager of the board’s pes­ti­cide di­vi­sion, told a sub­com­mit­tee of the board Fri­day. “I’d say that’s im­pres­sive,” she said.

Along with in­spect­ing crop dam­age, the in­spec­tors gather sam­ples for fed­eral reg­u­la­tors and col­lect sales records from chem­i­cal deal­ers and spray­ing sched­ules from farm­ers. Many in­spec­tors have been working seven days a week since the flood of com­plaints be­gan in early June.

The in­spec­tors aren’t al­lowed by law to es­ti­mate acreage pos­si­bly dam­aged, Ni­chols said. The es­ti­mate of more than 120,000 acres dam­aged was reached af­ter Plant Board em­ploy­ees in Lit­tle Rock called farm­ers and asked them for dam­age es­ti­mates.

Arkansas on July 11 im­ple-

● mented a 120-day emer­gency ban on the sale and in-crop use of the her­bi­cide dicamba. Un­til the ban, only one dicamba her­bi­cide — BASF’s En­ge­nia — had been al­lowed in the state.

Sim­i­lar com­plaints are ris­ing in other states, in­clud­ing the Corn Belt: 207 in Mis­souri, 68 in In­di­ana, 66 in Kansas, and 47 in Ne­braska. As of late last week, of­fi­cials in Ten­nessee and Mis­sis­sippi re­ported a com­bined 143 com­plaints.

As com­plaints mounted, Arkansas farm­ers on Wed­nes­day filed an­other law­suit in fed­eral court against the mak­ers of the chem­i­cals.

Filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, the farm­ers seek class-ac­tion cer­ti­fi­ca­tion on be­half

of other pos­si­ble plain­tiffs. The plain­tiffs are Smokey Al­ley Farm Part­ner­ship in Earle, Amore Farms in Mar­ion, the Kenneth Loretta Gar­rett Qualls Farm Part­ner­ship in Craig­head County, and JTM Farms, Qualls Land Co. and the Michael Baioni and McLe­more Farms, all in Crit­ten­den County.

De­fen­dants are Mon­santo, BASF and DuPont — the mak­ers of dicamba-based her­bi­cides al­lowed by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency for in-crop use this sea­son on dicamba-tol­er­ant cot­ton and soy­beans. Mon­santo de­vel­oped the new traits of seed to help farm­ers fight pig­weed and other weeds that have grown re­sis­tant to glyphosate, com­monly known as Roundup.

Lawyers for the farm­ers — the Peif­fer Rosca Wolf firm in St. Louis and Paul James and

Michael Smith, both of Lit­tle Rock — con­tend that their clients have found dicamba dam­age on at least 7,000 acres, pri­mar­ily soy­beans that were not ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms, or GMOs, al­tered to be tol­er­ant of dicamba.

A sim­i­lar law­suit was filed last month in fed­eral court in Jones­boro by farm­ers in Craig­head and Mon­roe coun­ties.

“This is not an anti-GMO law­suit; it’s a law­suit about cor­po­rate greed, a rush to mar­ket, and the re­sult­ing fall­out,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

Mon­santo mar­keted the new dicamba-tol­er­ant seeds — cot­ton in 2015, soy­beans in 2016 — be­fore hav­ing the ac­com­pa­ny­ing her­bi­cide ap­proved by the EPA, the law­suit said.

For the 2017 crop sea­son, Mon­santo, BASF and DuPont be­gan sell­ing dicamba her­bi­cides

that, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit were sup­posed to be less volatile and less prone to drift than older for­mu­la­tions of dicamba. “De­spite be­ing touted by de­fen­dants as safe for non­tar­get crops and plants, they are not,” the law­suit said.

The law­suit didn’t spec­ify an amount in dam­ages be­ing sought and ac­knowl­edged that farm­ers won’t know the ex­tent of dam­age un­til har­vest this fall.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.