Agricultural Law- Arkansas Dicamba Update

Arkansas implemented a temporary ban on the sale and use of Dicamba while people continue to try to conclude why there may have been such extensive crop damage allegedly resulting from its use.

The temporary ban on Dicamba goes into effect July 11 and will last 120 days, at which time rules concerning Dicamba will revert back to their status prior to the ban. As of Friday, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, and Kansas were all reporting Dicamba complaints and, on Friday, Missouri issued a statewide stop sale which halted all sales and use of Dicamba pesticide products labeled for agricultural uses. Concerns lie ahead for both the producers who have invested in Dicamba as well as those who claim to have been damaged by the chemical, even now that the temporary ban has been implemented, since the Arkansas Plant Board has received over 633 complaints of alleged Dicamba misuse.

The Plant Board proposed a ban on June 23 on the sale and use of Dicamba in Arkansas. Enhanced penalties of up to $25,000 were set to go into effect on August 1. Gov. Hutchinson reviewed the ban, and it was sent to the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council (“ALC”). The subcommittee requested that the Joint Agriculture, Forestry, and Economic Development Committee make a recommendation for the executive subcommittee. After over three hours of testimony from farmers across the state and others, the joint committee voted to recommend the Plant Board’s proposed ban be supported. The ALC executive subcommittee met and within minutes voted to take no action on the recommendation, which moved the emergency regulation forward.

Farmers speaking in support of the ban noted that they are sustaining damage that exceeds levels they have ever seen with previous novel herbicides. They are concerned that damage is occurring in towns farther away from crop fields than has ever been seen before, and this includes trees and family gardens. The CEO of a poultry operation spoke about how, as a niche market producer, he was likely to lose between $1-2 million dollars in 2018, and he would not be able to purchase his non-GMO soybeans from Arkansas producers like in previous years. Another farmer raised the concern that one chemical company was being provided a monopoly without the ban because they manufactured the only Dicamba product allowed for in-crop use after April 15 in Arkansas.

Farmers speaking in opposition to the ban raised concerns that the rules were being changed in the middle of the game since they had already invested in the technology and had plants in the ground. They recognized that there have been problems with Dicamba, but since the causes have not been pinpointed yet, they reasoned that it is inappropriate to take away the technology without the scientific support. Discussions about how change is never easy and concerns about Arkansas farmers being left behind were abundant. Additionally, the lack of viable alternative methods of controlling pigweed were mentioned, including one farmer who alleged that Dicamba is the only reason his farm could turn a profit this season.


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