The AP reports that the Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed temporary restraining orders from two circuit court judges in East Arkansas that would have allowed a group of farmers to use the banned herbicide dicamba.

The orders — from Judge Tonya Alexander in Mississippi County and Judge Christopher Morledge in Phillips County — prevented the state from enforcing a ban on the controversial herbicide which was put in place by the State Plant Board, as we reported last week. With the Supreme Court’s latest action, the ban remains firmly in effect.

The court’s ruling today was expected. It also stayed a temporary restraining order issued by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox last month, in which a different group of six plaintiff farmers sued the state.

The dicamba issue has become entangled with the thorny legal issue of sovereign immunity. Judge Fox dismissed the suit in his court in light of a recent surprise decision by the state Supreme Court that essentially declared the state immune from lawsuit. However, Fox then said the Supreme Court’s new interpretation of sovereign immunity also meant the six farmers’ due process rights had been violated, since they essentially had no resource to challenge the state plant board’s actions. Because the farmers were left with no legitimate means of appealing the State Plant Board’s decision, Fox said, the regulatory body’s ban on dicamba was rendered void.

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That decision prompted several similar suits in East Arkansas; in addition to the two in Mississippi and Phillips counties, there are at least two others.

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.

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