Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
Cash-strapped state agriculture agencies are buckling under an increased workload due to the hundreds of herbicide damage complaints filed in 2017 and scuttling other priorities to fully investigate claims of crop injury.
More than 2,700 dicamba-related soybean injury complaints have been filed to date, according to the University of Missouri’s Integrated Pest Management program.
The complaints are a big setback for companies—Monsanto Co., BASF SE, and DowDupont—that introduced new versions of the herbicide for the first time this year to help farmers combat stubborn weeds that no longer die when sprayed with traditional herbicides.
Underfunded state pesticide regulatory agencies are also overwhelmed with the number of complaints they must process.
David Scott, pesticide program administrator with the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, doesn’t expect to wrap up his state’s 2017 investigations until well into 2018. Indiana has opened close to 130 investigations, a higher number than some states, but well below Arkansas’ nearly 1,000 investigations and Missouri’s 311.
“You stop doing worker protection, you stop doing product work, you stop doing golf course inspections, you stop doing school inspections,” Scott said at a Dec. 4 meeting of pesticide regulators at the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs headquarters in Arlington, Va. “You basically stop doing anything and hope that you can respond to these things.”
The rising workload comes as states also prepare to fully implement a new rule to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure. The implementation of the Obama administration’s 2015 Worker Protection Standard was already postponed by at least a year to allow states to prepare training materials.
Indiana is not the only state overwhelmed by the number of investigations, Cary Giguere, chairman of the State-FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group, an organization that works to implement federal pesticide rules in states, said.
“You drop everything you routinely do and focus on those interests,” Giguere told Bloomberg Environment at the meeting.
Judy Glass, an official with the Kansas Department of Agriculture who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the four states in the EPA’s Region 7—Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—said they are all facing budget issues, with staff shortages expected next year.
Region 7 states are looking into 640 dicamba damage cases, with about half of those in Missouri, Glass said.
In light of the increased workload, the EPA has been relaxing certain goals and requirements state agencies must meet to receive federal grant money, Tim Drake, South Carolina’s program manager at Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, told Bloomberg Environment. The EPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an effort to curb the number of damage claims in 2018, the EPA has changed the label instructions for the herbicides. Training to use the products is now mandatory, and applicators can only use the pesticides during a specific time period each day.
Several states have begun taking action. Arkansas is close to finalizing a rule that would ban dicamba spraying after Apr. 16, 2018, effectively prohibiting its use on soybean crops. Missouri and North Dakota have implemented their own restrictions, and Kansas may be the next state to act, Glass said.
First developed and approved in the 1960s, dicamba is an effective weedkiller but notoriously volatile, meaning it quickly evaporates from a liquid droplet to gas and can travel thousands of feet to an unintended target.
Monsanto reformulated the herbicide to lower the volatility by 90 percent, and also developed genetically-engineered soybeans and cotton that can withstand the product when sprayed. Dupont makes a dicamba product with the same technology as Monsanto, and BASF also developed a new version of dicamba using different technology.
Despite these changes, many farmers complained that their neighbors’ use of the new weedkillers shriveled up non-engineered soybeans, as well as vegetable crops and trees. Monsanto and BASF say the damage is not due to volatility, but to farmers not using the pesticide properly. At least five lawsuits from farmers against the companies have been filed.
Indiana has only processed about 25 of its complaints so far, Scott said, adding that he still hasn’t found any clues for how and why the pesticide moves away from its intended targets, making the investigations more challenging that usual.
It’s unlikely that all applicators will comply with the new EPA rules on applying the pesticides, he added.
“That would be a miracle,” Scott said, if all applicators followed the instructions.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)