Arkansas panel approves rules for use of herbicide dicamba

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas panel has adopted a plan to allow restricted use of an herbicide banned in the wake of complaints that it drifted onto crops and caused damage.

The Arkansas Plant Board voted after a 9½-hour public hearing Wednesday in Little Rock to allow the use of dicamba through May 25. The new restrictions also would impose a half-mile buffer zone around research stations, organic crops, specialty crops, non-tolerant dicamba crops and other sensitive crops.

The rules now go to lawmakers for approval.

The state had previously banned dicamba’s use from April 16 through Oct. 31 after receiving nearly 1,00 complaints of crop damage in 2017. The herbicide appears to have drifted and damaged other crops and vegetation on land where it wasn’t even sprayed, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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.

Then in November 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that farmers could use the herbicide on soybeans and cotton for the next two years, ending the state-wide ban on the weed killer’s use.  The EPA also added new restrictions, 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.”

After the EPA’s ruling, the Arkansas Plant Board was given the opportunity to accept the regulations or pass other restrictions, which were released Wednesday.

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