The Environmental Protection Agency is aiming to allow farmers to spray the controversial weedkiller dicamba next year, but with additional rules for its use, an official with the agency said on Tuesday.
Reuben Baris, acting chief of the herbicide branch of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, said the agency had not determined what steps it would take to mitigate problems associated with dicamba. The herbicide, which fights weeds resistant to another herbicide called glyphosate, was linked to widespread crop damage this summer.
The EPA has been discussing with state regulators ways to prevent such crop damage.
Use of dicamba, which is produced by BASF SE and Monsanto Co., spiked after U.S. regulators last year approved a new formulation that allowed farmers to apply it to soybean plants that were engineered to resist the chemical while it killed weeds. Previously it had been sprayed on fields prior to planting.
Farmers say the chemical caused damage by drifting away from where it was sprayed to fields of soybeans and other plants that could not tolerate it.
Baris told a meeting of state regulatory officials in Washington, D.C., that the agency was “very concerned with what has occurred and transpired in 2017.”
“We’re committed to taking appropriate action for the 2018 growing season with an eye toward ensuring that the technology is available, number one, to growers but that it is used responsibly,” he said.
The EPA is in negotiations with Monsanto and BASF, which sell dicamba herbicides under different brands, to make changes regarding how they are used, Baris said.
State regulators previously told Reuters the EPA was considering establishing a set date after which the spraying of dicamba weed killers on growing crops would not be allowed. Arkansas is independently weighing an April 15, 2018, deadline.
But Tony Cofer of the Alabama Department of Agriculture said such a cutoff date would not match Baris’ goal of maintaining dicamba’s usefulness.
“That type of restriction would not be something they’re probably considering, in all practicality, if they wanted to continue use of the product,” said Cofer, director of the state’s Pesticide Management Division .
Monsanto has said the April 15, 2018, date would amount to a ban in Arkansas because the chemical was designed to be sprayed over the genetically engineered crops during the summer growing season.
Arkansas previously blocked sales of Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide in the state.
Arkansas farmers petition to reject dicamba ban
Farmers in Arkansas who planted 34% (1.2 million) of the state’s soybeans recently filed a petition in response to the proposed April 15 ban on dicamba products. The group opposes the ban proposed by the Dicamba Task Force, saying they want access to the technology in season.
The farmers supporting in-season use of dicamba say they’ve “seen first-hand the successes of dicamba technology in controlling the presence of pigweed” and “been impressed by significant improvements in yield.” The petition began September 15 and represents farmers from 22 Arkansas counties.
This petition outlines what supporters consider key issues with the proposed ban including:
1.Restrictions would cause financial losses to farmers as alternate platforms for pigweed management are not competitive with dicamba based technology.
2.The Task Force was not representative of the majority of Arkansas farmers and these producers’ concerns were not adequately addressed.
3.Pigweed is a major problem in Arkansas and the state should not be the only state in the South not allowed to use dicamba. Instead, a May 25th cutoff date and one mile buffer would reduce or eliminate all injury that occurred in Arkansas in 2017.
Leading the charge are Arkansas farmers Michael McCarty, Tom Burnham, Becton Bell, Perry Galloway, Greg Hart, Franklin Fogleman and Matt Smith who will also be presenting their recommendations on the matter to the Arkansas Dicamba Task Force and the full State Plant Board.
Their recommendations include, but aren’t limited to: no sale or use of DMA or DGA dicamba with the exception of Xtendimax, FeXapan or Engenia (BAPMA formulation); cut off dates consisting of zones from April 15 to May 25 based on north to south geographies; restricting application between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. after May 15 or anytime ambient temperature exceeds 88° after April 15; a one mile buffer in any direction of susceptible crops unless there is a written waiver from all parties; and a very restrictive permit to apply in extreme cases to be monitored by the Plant Board.
“We realize that these ideas will not satisfy all parties,” farmers said in their open letter to the Arkansas State Plant Board. “We are merely trying to facilitate a compromise.”
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