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Dicamba Concerns Catch Governor’s Ear During Listening Tour

Ann Kenda
Farmers from around Mississippi County met with Gov. Hutchinson at the Adams Estate during his series of town-hall style meetings around rural Arkansas.

The subject quickly turned to dicamba during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s two-day, seven-county tour across east and northeastern Arkansas.   The tour stopped in rural Leachville on Wednesday so the governor could meet with farmers where they live and grow their crops.

The controversial weed killer is currently on a 120-day ban for farm applications in Arkansas and Missouri amid complaints that it can be carried by the wind to neighboring farms and settle on to crops where it isn’t intended.

“I know that here in Mississippi County particularly, it’s like ground zero for the problems with dicamba,” said the governor.

Gov. Hutchinson, left, and local farmers discuss the dicamba controversy. The weed killer is currently on a temporary ban amid complaints that it travels to other farms and damages non-resistant crops.

Farmers who met with the governor inside the mansion at the Adams Estate stressed that the weed killer has been a source of anger among those who say it’s a remarkable and high-tech solution for the hardest-to-control weeds, and those who say it’s a danger to other crops.  They pointed to research which allegedly showed that the chemical can lifted into the atmosphere up to three days after application and find its way to other farms.  There, it can damage crops that are not compatible with dicamba.

“I grow peanuts.  There’s nothing to protect the peanut or the vegetables around here.  If they get hit, they’re just hit,” said Leachville farmer Todd Edwards.

“If this continues, it’s going to cause farmers to go out of business.  There’s no doubt in my mind,” said crop consultant Danny Dunigan.

The governor said he has high hopes the task force he recently formed to investigate dicamba will come up with solutions.  Since dicamba travels the most when it’s hot and humid, some farmers suggested an April 15 cut-off date for its use.

“I have friends that want to keep it, and friends that don’t.  We’ve got to try to figure this out,” said David Wildy, a member of the governor's task force.

The 120-day ban that went into effect on July 11 will eliminate dicamba for the rest of the 2017 growing season.  Farmers said they need the task force to act quickly so they can start planning for 2018.

“For planning for ’18, it’s seeding.  Getting enough seed, if you’re going to plant dicamba or you’re not, those are decisions that farmers have to make,” said Danny Finch with the state’s plant board.

Monsanto, the company that makes dicamba, did not answer questions about the controversy but offered an open letter to farmers from Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley.

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team. Her stories can be found on the airwaves, and social media.
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