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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - East Arkansas farmer Reed Storey shows the damage from dicamba to one of his soybean plants in Marvell, Ark., in July 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo File)

In-crop use of dicamba should be extended next year through May 31, a Plant Board committee recommended Tuesday despite unanimous agreement that some farmers violated this year's ban on use after May 26.

The pesticide committee's recommendation, by a 4-1 vote, now goes to the full board when it meets at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 17 at the state Department of Agriculture's headquarters in west Little Rock.

Any substantive change adopted by the board to this year's rules will be subject to a 30-day public-comment period and a public hearing. Approval from the governor and the legislature also will be required.

The Plant Board this year has received more than 200 complaints of alleged dicamba damage to crops and other vegetation, including ornamental shrubs and trees, and backyard gardens. A lot of the damage was reported well after this year's May 26 ban, leading Plant Board members, weed scientists and others to believe some farmers and applicators sprayed dicamba deep into the summer.

Similar complaints have been made since 2017, when the first new formulations of dicamba became available to farmers in their fight against weeds now resistant to other herbicides, including widely used Roundup, or glyphosate. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, developed dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans, as well as new dicamba compounds, as part of that fight. Other crops, including fruits and vegetables, remained susceptible to the herbicide, however.

Terry Fuller, a Plant Board member from Phillips County, voted against the five-day extension. Fuller said he preferred a stricter cutoff date of April 16, which would limit dicamba's use to pre-planting.

"I still contend as I have from the beginning that right is right and wrong is wrong," Fuller, who represents seed growers, said. "Science tells us [dicamba] will not stay put on the fields," especially as temperatures and humidity increase, he said.

The proposed ban would extend from June 1 through Oct. 31 next year, with in-crop spraying of dicamba allowed from April 16 through May 31.

Other proposed rules for the spraying window include:

A 2-mile buffer, in all directions from fields where dicamba is applied to fields run by university and U.S. Department of Agriculture research stations. The buffer in this year's regulations was 1 mile. Yet, scientists with the University of Arkansas system's Division of Agriculture reported damage from off-target movement of dicamba to its trial plots of cotton and soybeans this summer.

Requiring satellite, or GPS, records compiled by farmers when they spray fields to make those records available to agriculture department inspectors upon request.

Requiring farmers to sign on to an online registry detailing every in-crop application of dicamba within 10 days of that application. Information would include the name of the farm, satellite coordinates of each field, each field's planting dates, and distance to crops susceptible to dicamba.

The proposed regulations retain this year's 1-mile buffer, in all directions, from dicamba-sprayed fields to certified organic crops and commercially grown specialty crops. A half-mile buffer, in all directions, to soybeans and cotton not tolerant of dicamba also would be retained. A ban on mixing dicamba with glyphosate also would continue.

Greg Hay of Conway, the board's chairman and member of the pesticide committee, had suggested most of the points approved Tuesday. He also, for a time, suggested that the buffer to protect organic and specialty crops be extended to 2 miles.

Brad Koen, an employee of BASF and who represents pesticide manufacturers, opposed such an extension, saying there's no evidence that those growers have reported problems this year. Under USDA rules, an organic farm hit by a pesticide or other chemicals could lose certification for as long as three years.

Some board members, at least for a while, pushed for an extension into mid-June but also called the May 31 date "reasonable."

Board member Sam Stuckey of Clarkedale, in Crittenden County, said late planting brought on by a wet spring, forced farmers to spray later in the season, even if illegally. He said a mid-June cutoff date during a "normal" spring would work but accepted the May 31 proposal.

Stuckey, with a map in hand, also said Arkansas has the strictest dicamba regulations in the nation.

Other states in the South and Midwest mostly are using dicamba rules approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency when it decided last fall to allow in-crop use of dicamba through at least 2020.

Complaints in Illinois this summer have topped 600, about twice the number last year. That state had extended its cutoff from June 30 to July 15, because spring rains delayed farmers' planting and their fight against early-rising weeds.

An increase in complaints also has been noted in Indiana.

Arkansas had about 1,000 complaints in 2017, when regulators initially allowed the herbicide to be sprayed throughout the growing season, generally from May into October. The Plant Board implemented a 120-day emergency ban on July 11 that year when complaints at the time had topped 200.

Business on 09/11/2019

Print Headline: Panel favors longer dicamba season in Arkansas

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