Dicamba Decisions

Missouri Bill Wants to Curb Illegal Dicamba Uses

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Two new formulations of dicamba have been registered in recent months for use in herbicide-tolerant crops, but some states are seeking other actions beyond the stringent federal labels to make sure farmers use products properly. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Tom Dodge)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Missouri farmers could face some stiff fines if they misuse dicamba herbicides this summer. Missouri Representative Don Rone, R-Portageville, has introduced legislation aimed at making sure farmers in that state use weed-control products correctly.

Rone, who also farms in southeast Missouri, told DTN that his bill would raise the penalty for those caught using off-label formulations to $1,000 per treated acre. "Say an applicator uses an off-label formulation of dicamba on 80 acres and it drifts onto a neighbor, that could lead to an $80,000 fine by the state," said Rone. The current penalty for a confirmed drift infraction in Missouri is $1,000 per incident.

Rone said there may still be some technical changes to HB 662, but it is on a fast-track. "We're going to do our dead level best at the Capitol," Rone said. "I've got the speaker and Senate pro tempore geared up to have this done before the middle of March and before growers start using these products."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently registered two herbicides, XtendiMax plus VaporGrip and Engenia, for use with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend, dicamba-tolerant crops. The manufacturers claim the new formulations are less volatile, but weed scientists stress that volatility is only one factor in how dicamba moves. (See "Why Dicamba Drifted Last Year" at http://bit.ly/…) The federal labels for both approved dicamba formulations stipulate strict drift mitigation measures that include downwind buffers, a specific spray nozzle and wind-speed limitations.

Rone began writing the legislation last summer when growers reached for old formulations of dicamba to use on soybeans and cotton developed to withstand the herbicide. Although herbicide-tolerant crops were available to be planted in 2016, there was no herbicide registered for use in Xtend soybeans and cotton. Southeast Missouri and central Missouri became a hotbed of complaints last summer as some of the dicamba applied off-label drifted onto sensitive crops and plants.

Rone said there could still be some technical changes to his bill as it wends through the Missouri chambers. The current bill represents version 12 of the language.

AIMS TO DETER ILLEGAL USE

"This bill is about one thing and one thing only -- the deterrent of illegal use," he said. "It is designed to keep people from misusing the compounds and using it illegally," Rone said.

Christine Tew, Missouri Soybean Association director of communications, told DTN via email that the group has been working with Rep. Rone and other legislators to address off-label use. "Our growers and staff have been at the table for these discussions and we'll continue to work closely on this," said Tew. "As far as a position on the issue, ours hasn't changed since this conversation began in the summer -- we encourage all to read and follow label instructions."

Earlier this month, EPA also registered Enlist Duo, a new 2,4-D formulation, for use in cotton and that herbicide system will be fully available to cotton growers in 2017. While much of the focus was been on dicamba this past summer, cotton and other plants are also quite sensitive to 2,4-D and older 2,4-D products that are readily available in the marketplace. Rone said his bill would apply to all herbicides that are applied off-label. Enlist corn and soybeans have not been fully commercialized yet because they await some import approvals.

Dicamba has long been used as an early-season burndown product and for postemergence weed control in corn. Those usages would not be affected, as long as growers follow label directions, Rone said.

Rone added that acreage figures for fines would be determined by obtaining sales records. He said the legislation is written to give the state subpoena power if farmers do not want to give up documents and records regarding herbicide purchases and usage.

FINES GO TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS

All collected fines will go to the school district in which the offense took place. The bill also requires herbicide manufacturers to provide grower training and retailers to require proof of completing a training class before a dicamba sale can take place. The classes could be offered electronically, he noted.

The legislation would also require that spray applicators found guilty as a result of a formal drift complaint to reimburse the Missouri Department of Agriculture for the cost of the investigation. He said the state is currently struggling to financially endure the cost of investigating the drift complaints received last year. Sarah Alsager, Missouri Department of Agriculture, told DTN this week that all 124 of those 2016 investigations are still active.

Rone has also introduced HB 605, which requires the Missouri Department of Agriculture to review each herbicide sold in the state to determine if it is an inherently volatile herbicide, and to develop usage restrictions for such herbicides.

Another Rone introduction, HB 606, prohibits the commercial sale of any herbicide-resistant agricultural seed if there is not an approved herbicide for use on crops resulting from such seed.

Arkansas lawmakers recently signed off on a list of dicamba restrictions that ban the use of DMA-type dicamba herbicides and prohibit the use of DGA-salts (with the exception of some pasture uses) from April 15 to Sept. 15. The new rules handed down by the Arkansas Plant Board had been approved by Gov. Asa Hutchison earlier this month.

The only dicamba-based formulation available to Arkansas farmers in-season this year will be Engenia, and it comes with some slightly different buffer requirements than the federal label. Monsanto's XtendiMax is a DGA-based product and will fall under the April 15 cutoff rule in Arkansas.

Rone said Missouri farmers had asked him not to take the more restrictive Arkansas route with his legislation. "Some may think the penalties I'm suggesting are harsh, but I really did craft it to help Missouri farmers," he explained. "We want to do what we can to save this chemistry. I firmly believe if we have another situation in the Bootheel of Missouri like we did in 2016, that the EPA is going to take a real dim look at dicamba and it could cause Monsanto and BASF and ultimately, farmers, to lose the compounds completely," he said.

To track this legislation go to: http://on.mo.gov/…

Pam Smith can be reached at pam.smith@dtn.com

(ES/AG)

Pam Smith