Dicamba Ban Advances

Arkansas Governor Pushes Ahead Emergency Action Rules

Mike Palmerino
By  Mike Palmerino , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
Cupped soybeans are a common site in Arkansas this season. The number of drift complaints flowing into the state have caused calls for emergency action. (Photo by Aaron Hager)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday, June 30, announced he has taken action on two proposed emergency rules he received from the Arkansas State Plant Board regarding the use of the herbicide dicamba.

In his first action, the governor said that he would submit the "Ban on the Sale and Use of Dicamba" proposal to the Legislative Council for review, according to a news release from the governor's office that DTN received as a forward from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. That measure would put a 120-day moratorium on any further use of dicamba over the top of row crops.

The only dicamba herbicide currently labeled for use in Arkansas from April 15 through Sept. 15 is BASF's Engenia. The proposal to halt the sale and application of that herbicide would apply only to the state of Arkansas. There is an exemption in the proposal for pastureland.

In his full letter regarding the temporary ban on in-crop use, Hutchinson mentioned his concern about taking this action in the middle of the growing season. However, he acknowledged that the volume of the complaints justifies the action. As of June 23, there were 507 alleged dicamba misuse complaints that had been filed from 12 Arkansas counties.

The governor also instructed the Plant Board and the Department of Agriculture to create a task force to review dicamba technology, to investigate the use of dicamba and to develop a long-term solution for Arkansas.

In his second action, Gov. Hutchinson announced that he has approved the endorsement of a proposal titled "Pesticide Enforcement Response Regulation," which calls for stiffer penalties for dicamba use violations.

The Plant Board's proposal was submitted to the governor as both an emergency rule and a regularly proposed rule, which will allow it to remain in effect beyond the 120-day period of the emergency rule.

The second, longer-term proposal is in response to Act 778 of 2017, which was an amendment to the Arkansas Plant Act of 1917. The amendment will allow the Plant Board to assess penalties of greater than $1,000 but not more than $25,000 for "egregiouis" (sic) violations of dicamba rules that result in significant crop damage.

Act 778 would not take effect until Aug. 1, 2017. However, Gov. Hutchinson's decision to promulgate the emergency rule will authorize the Plant Board to act quickly, provided the Legislative Council approves the rules, according to the news release.

In a letter to Wes Ward, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and Terry Walker, director of the Arkansas Plant Board, the governor wrote:

"As I have stated since January of this year, the Plant Board should have an adequate and an effective enforcement mechanism to deter the illegal application of chemicals that are a significant burden to our agricultural producers."

These proposed rules will now head to the Arkansas Legislative Council for review. The Legislative Council's next meeting is scheduled for July 21, 2017.

Although Arkansas farmers plant soybeans over a long period of time, it is likely the spray window would be closed before that late July date. The Executive Committee could choose to meet before that time to consider the proposal, according to Adriane Barnes, Arkansas Department of Agriculture communication lead.

To read the entire letter from Gov. Hutchinson go to: https://governor.arkansas.gov/…

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN


Mike Palmerino