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The Missouri Department of Agriculture said it hopes to be able to lift its ban on the herbicide dicamba as early as this week, a restriction it ordered after complaints that use of the weed killer by some farmers was damaging crops in adjacent fields.
Agriculture advocates say the situation has become “a mess” for the department, which is struggling to balance the competing interests of the makers of new formulations of dicamba purported to reduce the problem of pesticide drift, farmers whose fields have invested heavily in these new products, and farmers whose crops have been damaged.
“There are farmers out there who have invested $50,000 in a chemical they can’t use right now, and the alternatives they have available aren’t that good,” Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, told Bloomberg BNA.
Hurst said while the bureau supports the temporary ban, it puts farmers who have made a large investment in the new formulations of dicamba in a “very difficult situation.”
Herbicide makers Monsanto Co., BASF SE, and Dupont Co. told Bloomberg BNA July 10 they plan to work with the state in hopes of getting their products back in use on Missouri farms soon.
And Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn told Bloomberg BNA July 10 through a spokeswoman that the department hopes to be in position to lift the ban by July 14.
“We’re working with the companies to find a solution that works for all Missouri farmers. Ultimately, it’s in the hands of the manufacturers to develop a label that works for our state and our climate. Conversations are ongoing, and our goal is to get this tool back in the hands of farmers this week.”
In announcing its ban July 7, the Missouri Department of Agriculture said it received more than 130 pesticide-drift complaints since the beginning of the year believed to be related to dicamba. The new versions are meant to be paired with versions of soybeans and cotton that have been genetically modified to be dicamba-tolerant.
Dicamba is believed to have damaged thousands of acres of crops in Missouri, the department said.
The ban, which also extends to the sale of dicamba by distributors and dealers, is “temporary until a more permanent solution is reached,” the department said.
Missouri’s action came on the same day that an Arkansas legislative committee approved a 120-day ban on the sale and use of dicamba that had been proposed June 23 by the Arkansas State Plant Board, also in response to widespread complaints of crop damage from dicamba drift.
Monsanto had been sharply critical of the Arkansas action, but adopted a more restrained tone after the ban in Missouri was announced.
“Missouri has reiterated its commitment to allow farmers to have access to technology and this decision to issue a temporary Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order for all agricultural uses of dicamba products in Missouri allows the State to engage in an expedited investigation process and consider additional special local need labeling restrictions for the remainder of the 2017 growing season,” Monsanto said. “Monsanto will actively engage in that process and appreciates the continued collaboration with the State of Missouri.”
In a statement, Laura Svec, a spokeswoman for DuPont Crop Protection, said: “We intend to work with the Department to help identify a solution to enable FeXapanTM [the DuPont version of dicamba] to be used this growing season to help growers in Missouri manage weeds.”
BASF said in a July 10 statement that it has proposed a revision of the product label for its dicamba version that it hopes will allow the herbicide to be used again during the current growing season.
Said the Missouri Farm Bureau’s Hurst: “I know the agriculture department sincerely hopes to get the dicamba back out there this season, but until they do, this is a mess.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Brown in St. Louis at ChrisBrown@bna.com
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The Missouri order is available at http://src.bna.com/qB8.
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