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EPA approves dicamba use in Arkansas after herbicide’s ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A recent Environmental Protection Agency ruling clears the path for Arkansas farmers to use the herbicide dicamba on soybeans and cotton, ending a state-wide ban on the weed killer’s use.

The federal agency on Wednesday announced the decision to allow the spraying of the herbicide for the next two years, despite concerns from some farmers and scientists who say it can drift and damage other crops and vegetation, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Arkansas banned in-crop use of dicamba this year after the state’s Plant Board received nearly 1,000 complaints of crop damage last year. The ban began in April and ran through October.

The ban sharply divided farmers and prompted a lawsuit from herbicide maker Monsanto.

Arkansas farmers who want to use dicamba have said the herbicide is essential to curb the spread of pigweed, which has become resistant to other herbicides. But critics argue that the weed killer destroys vegetation and ecosystems.

Arkansas was the only state to implement a dicamba ban, but many states have set restrictions on its use.

The EPA also added new restrictions on Wednesday, including that only “certified applicators” can spray dicamba over the top of crops. The agency also ruled that in-crop use of dicamba must cease 45 days after planting for soybeans and 60 days after planting for cotton.

Some critics have said that the EPA’s new rules fail to address the herbicide’s “volatility” and ability to damage susceptible crops.

Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the EPA’s “reckless re-approval of this dangerous poison ignores damage to crops, natural areas and backyard gardens of millions of acres.”

The Arkansas Plant Board can now accept the EPA’s regulations or pass other restrictions. The board already had plans to consider a proposal on Monday that sought to permit dicamba’s use through next year’s growing season.