On Tuesday, a task force created at the direction of the governor issued its final report on the future use of dicamba, a controversial herbicide that many Arkansas farmers say has caused massive damage to their crops due to drift. Some farmers want it banned permanently. Other farmers are resisting Arkansas’s movement in that direction, as are the chemical giant BASF (which produces a version of the herbicide) and agricultural giant Monsanto (which engineers dicamba-resistant seed and sells its own version of the chemical).
For background, read David Koon’s monumental cover story on a 2016 murder stemming from a dicamba dispute in Northeast Arkansas.
A temporary moratorium on the use of the herbicide went into effect earlier this summer, but the task force’s report recommended three additional actions:
• A cutoff date for the in-crop use of dicamba in Arkansas of April 15, 2018 and the need to revisit the issue for the 2019 growing season after more data and research has been collected and reviewed.
• Amend the current law (Arkansas Code § 2-16-203) allowing there to be “egregious violations” subject to enhanced penalties without the need to prove “significant off-target crop damage.”
• Increased independent and university testing of new products before they come to market, with an additional stipulation that the entire technology package (seeds and herbicide) be ready for market at the same time.
For the recommendations to take effect, the Arkansas State Plant Board must approve them. Its next meeting is Sept. 21.
From the executive summary of the report:
The vast impact soybean production has on the state of Arkansas and its residents is the reason why the number of complaints received by the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) alleging misuse of the herbicide dicamba throughout the summer of 2017 is so harrowing. As of Sept. 1, 2017, there have been 963 complaints alleging dicamba misuse over 26 Arkansas counties