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Two members of the state Plant Board who were instrumental in this summer's ban on the in-crop use of dicamba said Tuesday that they won't be reappointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to new two-year terms.

Larry Jayroe of Forrest City has served on the board since 2000. Danny Finch of Jonesboro was appointed in 2009.

Jayroe, who represented the fertilizer and oil mill industries, said he was informed Monday by the governor's office that he wouldn't be reappointed to a term that formally expired last month.

"I'm disappointed," Jayroe said. "After personal meetings with the governor and following his instructions on dicamba, it surprised me that I would be replaced. We did what he asked us to do."

Finch, who held an at-large position representing cotton farmers, also said the governor's office called him Monday to say Hutchinson "was going in a different direction."

"I'm going to stay in a neutral position for a little while and not saying anything right now, but I may later," said Finch, whose term also formally expired last month.

Hutchinson said in a statement, "[It] is important that others are given an opportunity to participate in government. As such, I will soon appoint two new members to the Plant Board that will bring farming experience and expertise to the body, as well as a fresh perspective that is needed from time-to-time in state government."

State law allows the members to serve until their replacements are sworn in, though Jayroe said it's unlikely he and Finch will attend another meeting as members because the next one isn't until June.

Jayroe's replacement, John Fricke, president of Planters Cotton Oil Mill in Pine Bluff, declined comment. Finch's replacement, Sam Stuckey, a farmer in Poinsett and Crittenden counties, couldn't be reached for comment.

Jayroe and Finch played major roles in how the board reacted the past two years to complaints of dicamba damage to crops and other vegetation not tolerant of the herbicide. Jayroe was chairman of the board's pesticide committee, and Finch was one of its five other members with voting powers.

Almost every decision reached by the Plant Board related to this year's hotly, and legally, contested ban on spraying dicamba -- from April 16 through Oct. 31 -- went through the committee.

"I've served for 20 years, representing my industry and agriculture in general, and I don't regret any decision I've made," Jayroe said. "We did what we thought was best with the information we had."

The board's November vote in favor of this year's ban was 10-3, with nine votes needed for passage. Jayroe and Finch both voted for the ban.

In 2016, after the board had received about three dozen complaints that summer of dicamba damage, Jayroe's committee met five times, ultimately recommending for 2017 a ban on spraying the herbicide between April 15 and Sept. 15.

The board approved the recommendation but decided to allow only Engenia, a dicamba made by BASF, as a concession to farmers who said they needed dicamba to fight weeds now resistant to other herbicides. The governor signed off on the ban.

On June 8, during a Plant Board meeting, Finch said his own crops in northeast Arkansas had gotten hit by dicamba for a second-consecutive year. A neighboring farmer had sprayed Engenia, Finch said, adding he believed the farmer had followed every regulation on spraying the herbicide and that the chemical lifted off plants as a vapor and moved to his fields.

The problems would only get worse as the summer wore on, Finch said then. "I don't think there will be enough phones in this building" to handle complaints, he said.

The board had received 25 complaints at the time.

On June 16, with nearly 100 complaints on file, Jayroe's committee voted 6-0 in favor of an emergency ban on all dicamba formulations, including Engenia, for the rest of the growing season. The full board adopted the emergency ban about a week later on a 9-5 vote. Hutchinson also approved the measure, which took effect July 11.

Those complaints eventually reached 997 last summer.

This year's ban on in-crop use of dicamba has spurred six lawsuits against the Plant Board, including one by Monsanto. The company makes a dicamba product, called Xtendimax, that the board hasn't yet allowed in Arkansas. Groups of farmers have filed five other lawsuits in circuit courts, all pending.

The Plant Board has 18 members.

The governor has seven appointees -- five to represent specific segments within Arkansas agriculture, such as Finch for cotton farmers and Jayroe for fertilizer and oil mills, and two members to represent farmers at-large.

Nine members are placed on the board through elections within other agriculture groups representing horticulture, pest control, seed growers, seed dealers, feed manufacturers, aerial aviators, forestry, nursery, and manufacturers of pesticides and herbicides.

Two members represent the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division but do not have voting powers.

Jayroe and Finch are the second and third members of the Plant Board not to receive reappointment from Hutchinson over the past 14 months.

Ray Vester of Stuttgart, who represented rice farmers for 18 years before losing his position about a year ago, was particularly critical of the Hutchinson administration's plan in early 2017 to revamp the Plant Board. The General Assembly defeated that effort, and Vester wasn't reappointed when his term ended a couple of months later.

Jayroe, Finch and Vester had all received reappointment by Hutchinson, after he took office in 2015 but before dicamba began roiling Arkansas agriculture.

A fourth member, Jammy Turner of Gillett, in Arkansas County, resigned Sept. 5 to take a position on the nonregulatory Arkansas Agriculture Board just before Monsanto, the developer of dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans, sued the Plant Board on Oct. 20 for various actions leading up to a ban on dicamba products, including its own Xtendimax dicamba formulation.

Turner, a sales representative for Monsanto appointed to the board by Hutchinson in early 2015, said then that his resignation had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Jayroe's committee also played a role in the board's decision, later approved by the General Assembly, to increase from $1,000 to $25,000 the maximum fine that can be levied for egregious violations of Arkansas pesticide and herbicide laws.

Until the law setting the $25,000 fines took effect last July, Finch pushed for the maximum fines allowed at the time to be handed down in cases where farmers and applicators had multiple violations of the same law. Finch recused from voting in cases involving damage to his crops.

Business on 04/25/2018

Print Headline: 2 key dicamba-ban voters lose seats

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