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Illness prompted state Sen. Bill Sample to make a motion Tuesday to reject proposed restrictions on a herbicide before farmers and others attending a committee hearing in Little Rock had a chance to testify, he said Wednesday.

"I was sick, and I wanted to leave," Sample, R-Hot Springs, said Wednesday, explaining that he has bronchitis. He likened the state Capitol and its complex of buildings to a "day care center" where nearly everyone has a cold or other malady this time of year.

Sample said he left the building immediately after his motion was approved and didn't hear the testimony of five farmers who had signed up to speak or from two officials with the state Plant Board.

Sample's motion was a setback to the board, which had proposed an April 16-Oct. 31 ban on the in-crop use of dicamba next year. The board's work on the cutoff date began in August and concluded with a 30-day public comment period in October and a Nov. 8 public hearing that attracted about 300 farmers.

Sample's motion also keeps the proposal before the Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the Legislative Council and removes it from the Legislative Council's agenda for its meeting Friday. That group conducts most of the General Assembly's business when the Legislature is not in session.

Sample said Wednesday that he thought the April 16-Oct. 31 restriction was "arbitrary" and not based on science, even though the Plant Board worked with weed scientists with the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division in coming up with the dates.

Sample said he favors restrictions based, instead, on temperatures and, possibly, by zones determined by crops grown. "We don't have good scientific guidelines to go by, to know exactly when volatilization starts," he said, referring to a process in which the herbicide can lift off plants and move as a vapor, with little or no wind, to fields miles away.

One experiment by UA scientists this summer involved covering a few soybean plants with 5-gallon buckets while the rest of the field was being sprayed with dicamba. The covered plants showed symptoms of damage within 30 minutes of the buckets being removed. Other tests showed damage to plants 36 hours after the herbicide had been sprayed.

Monsanto developed dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans as pigweed grew tolerant of other herbicides, but other crops aren't dicamba tolerant. The company has said problems in Arkansas and other states this summer were caused by applicator error.

The Plant Board proposed the cutoff date after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints of dicamba damage to soybeans and other crops, backyard gardens, honeybee operations, and ornamental shrubs and trees this year.

"I want farmers to have every tool to fight weeds, but I also want to make sure we're not hurting one farmer while helping another," Sample said.

Larry Jayroe, chairman of the board's pesticide subcommittee, said Wednesday that he and other members considered holding emergency meetings today of the subcommittee and full board but decided against it.

Members instead will look at Sample's proposals in early January. "We've studied all this before, and we'll do so again," Jayroe said.

Business on 12/14/2017

Print Headline: Ill, wanted to leave, senator says of stifled dicamba plan

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