Jars of local honey from Crooked Creek Bee Co. will disappear from Arkansas stores following a decision from the state's largest commercial beekeeper to end its retail operations amid concerns over the weedkiller dicamba.
Owner Richard Coy described his customers as disappointed but understanding about the decision, which he announced on Facebook on New Year's Day. His honey was sold in some 80 grocery and natural food stores around the state.
Coy said he found that alleged drift from the controversial herbicide does not kill bees themselves, but
damages the vegetation they need to live on. He said it was no longer possible to keep retail operations up in Arkansas due to ongoing problems with dicamba.
"The plants that produce the honey that we were selling to the retail market are the plants that have been severely damaged and the honey that are our bees collect off of other vegetation is not as desirable and I did not want to put a product that is undesirable on the shelf," he said.
The state plant board announced a seasonal ban on the product in November 2017, but Coy and others have suspected that some use is still taking place. The plant board is currently accepting comments for a proprosed plan to allow some dicamba use on cotton and soybean crops that are resistant to the herbicide.
The company that makes the product, Monsanto, previously attributed any problems to user error and defended dicamba as the most effective and modern solution to stubborn weeds. Monsanto has since been acquired by Bayer.
Coy plans to move operations to southern Mississippi, but with some regret since Arkansas is his home state.
"It's very emotional, but you can't let emotions get in the way of business decision, and the best business decision is to not go broke," he said.
CLARIFICATION: A representative of Bayer Crop Science, Charla Lord, responded to this story by saying the company only produces one dicamba product, XtendiMax with VaporGrip, which has never been sold in Arkansas. But Bayer acquired Monsanto last year which did make dicamba products sold in Arkansas. Monsanto also filed suit against the State Plant Board and each individual member after the state banned the use of dicamba last year, calling their decision arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.