Dicamba Whiplash

Arkansas Supreme Court Halts Farmers' Access to Dicamba

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Only 38 farmers have access to dicamba in Arkansas at the moment, after the state Supreme Court intervened on April 25 in response to appeals filed by the state's attorney general. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- A group of Arkansas farmers had little more than a week of access to dicamba before the state Supreme Court intervened on Wednesday, April 25.

Nearly 200 farmers had gained temporary access to new dicamba herbicides after three judges in Clay, Mississippi and Phillips counties issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) of the state's in-season dicamba ban in the third week of April.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge quickly filed appeals in the Phillips County and Mississippi County cases and asked for "expedited stays" -- or halts -- of the restraining orders until those appeals are decided. Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to issue those stays. A state judge also denied an additional request for a restraining order filed by 13 farmers in Greene County last week.

For now, only 38 farmers continue to have access to dicamba under a Clay County restraining order still in effect.

"The Attorney General has appealed and asked the Supreme Court to allow the dicamba ban to remain in place in the Clay County case," Nicole Ryan, communications director for Rutledge, told DTN. "This would be consistent with what the Supreme Court decided in the Mississippi County, Phillips County and Pulaski County cases, which addressed identical claims about the Plant Board's dicamba rule."

Those 38 farmers under the restraining order only have access to BASF's Engenia herbicide to use on their Xtend cotton and soybeans. While Monsanto's XtendiMax herbicide is registered in Arkansas for use on Xtend crops, the company has opted not to sell it there for the time being, according to Monsanto spokesperson Kyel Richards.

The state's ban on dicamba use, which has caused a legal uproar in the state this spring, is in place from April 16 through Oct. 31. The Arkansas State Plant Board instituted it after receiving 997 complaints of dicamba injury to soybeans and other crops and plants in 2017.

Whether the 38 remaining farmers with a restraining order will actually apply dicamba is uncertain, given pending legal action by the state and the fact that only 21% of soybeans have been planted in Arkansas as of Monday, according to USDA Crop Progress reports.

The state plant board, which is the primary target of this wave of legal action, is now undergoing a membership shake-up.

On April 25, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that two members, Danny Finch and Larry Jayroe, would not have their two-year terms on the board renewed after they expired in March.

Both Finch and Jayroe were key players in the board's decision to restrict dicamba use, as well as set heftier fines (from $1,000 to $25,000 per violation) for applicators who make illegal pesticide applications.

In response to a request for comment, the Arkansas State Plant Board directed DTN to Gov. Hutchinson's statement on the matter:

"The appointment of two members of the Plant Board expired recently and as with any appointment, 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."

See DTN's previous coverage of the fight for in-season dicamba use on Xtend crops in Arkansas here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee


Emily Unglesbee