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State Plant Board Holds Tight To Dicamba Ban Despite Lawmakers' Appeal For Changes

Sarah Whites-Koditschek
State Plant Board Chairman Otis Howe at Wednesday's meeting

The Arkansas Plant Board has doubled down on its plan to ban Dicamba, the agricultural weed killer. The vote Wednesday was a slight rebuke of state Rep. Bill Sample (R-Hot Springs) and colleagues on a legislative subcommittee that last month asked the board to reconsider the ban, specifically the April 15 cutoff date for spraying Monsanto’s controversial herbicide.
In November, the board proposed a ban on the use of Dicamba. Close to 1,000 Arkansas farmers filed formal complaints because the Monsanto-produced weed killer applied on farms planted with dicamba-resistent strains of crops was drifting to neighboring farms and killing fields.

Last month the state legislature refused to give its approval and asked the plant board to reconsider some details in the ban.

According to Bob Scott, an extension weed scientist with the University of Arkansas, there is only minimal use for Dicamba outside of the growing season.

"I think the date is a big sticking point because the April 15 date effectively is a ban," said University of Arkansas weed scientist Bob Scott.

“I think the date is a big sticking point because the April 15 date effectively is a ban,” he said.
Some members of the plant board, like Marty Eaton, said they wanted to extend the cutoff date to May 10, giving dicamba users a chance to use the spray before the hot weather, which causes the chemical to drift more, sets in.
 “We could push the date out past April 15, but I know we are going to have some risk, but get some reward out of the technology to help the Arkansas farmer control some issues that he’s having trouble with,” said Eaton.  
But the majority of the board felt the later spraying date might create too much of a risk for other crops, like sweet potatoes and non-dicamba-resistent soybeans, and even honeybees who are vulnerable to the chemical.

At the meeting, the plant board reviewed scientific studies on the relationship between temperature and Dicamba drift, among others.

Monsanto Vice President Scott Partidge criticized the board for and claimed it did not rely on evidence supporting Monsanto's claims that Dicamba can be used safely with proper training.

"The plant board’s capricious actions and disregard for science continue to put Arkansas growers at a significant disadvantage. We urge the legislative council to continue to insist on science-based decisions and send this flawed recommendation back to the plant board,” he said in a written statement.
Arkansas Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Adriane Barnes who also handles communications for the board said the decision is once again in the hands of legislators.
“This all is a process, so every piece of this is one governmental body trying to make the best decisions with the best science and the best input from Arkansans that they have available,” she said.   
The Arkansas Legislative Council will review the board’s decision on January 16.