Arkansas’s battle over dicamba, the controversial herbicide banned recently by the Arkansas State Plant Board, has entered a volatile new stage.
At least four separate legal challenges to the state’s ban have now been filed by groups of farmers in four northeast Arkansas counties — Phillips, Mississippi, Greene
Circuit judges in Phillips and Mississippi counties sided with the plaintiffs last week, issuing temporary restraining orders against the plant board’s ban. The attorney general’s office has filed notice that it will appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Meanwhile, judges in Greene and Clay counties will hold hearings on two similar complaints tomorrow morning.
The wave of lawsuits comes in the wake of a March 30 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox that the plant board’s dicamba ban did not apply to six plaintiffs. Fox dismissed the suit in light of the state Supreme Court’s recent earthquake ruling essentially declaring the state immune from lawsuit, a conclusion reached earlier by another Pulaski County circuit judge. However, Fox then said the Supreme Court’s new interpretation of sovereign immunity also meant the farmer’s due process rights had been
Emily Unglesbee, a reporter for the Progressive Farmer, quoted the plaintiffs’ attorney, Grant Ballard on Fox’s ruling.
“But the judge added that — if that’s true — then farmers don’t have any opportunity to remedy their damages or appeal decisions of the state plant board, and that is a violation of their due process rights under state and federal constitutions,” Ballard said. “So he dismissed the lawsuit, but since that violated these gentlemen’s due process rights, he said the order of the plant board is void for these plaintiffs.”
When the attorney general appealed, the state Supreme Court then stayed Fox’s order. For now, the six plaintiff’s
The latest legal turmoil has attracted national attention from NPR, which reported yesterday on the confused state of affairs among farmers unsure whether to buy dicamba-resistant seed or not. Even farmers who might not want to use dicamba on their own crops will be affected by the
For background on the dicamba saga, which has pitted farmer against farmer in the soybean fields of East Arkansas, read David Koon’s story for the Arkansas Times last summer.