DECATUR, Illinois (DTN) -- There were armed guards at the entrance of the meeting room of the Arkansas State Plant Board public hearing last week.
As attendees registered, they were instructed to sit on the right side of the room if they intended to testify in opposition of a proposal that would set an April 15 cut-off of in-season applications of dicamba. Those supporting the ban of dicamba between April 16 and Oct. 31 were instructed to head left.
I'm sure the organizers did not intend a political distinction in seating arrangement.
"What if I'm not sure?" asked someone in the registration line. The question elicited some snickers, but also several head nods.
For nearly three hours farmers, industry representatives, lawyers, weed scientists and concerned citizens took their five-minute turn at the microphone before a line of ASPB board members.
Like verbal ping-pong, the testimony swapped back and forth between pro (I need the tool to remain competitive) and con (the product damages sensitive plants and can't be controlled). In the muddy middle, but leaning right, were farmers asking to push the spray date to May 25 while offering concessions of additional application restrictions, such as extensive buffer zones.
As DTN reported while attending the event, the ASPB decided to send their legislature a proposal that will allow use of dicamba in cotton and soybean only between Dec. 1 and April 15. Six Arkansas farmers almost immediately filed suit against the ASPB for the move. Monsanto also has a suit pending from an earlier ban on XtendiMax dicamba.
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Other states, such as Tennessee and Missouri, are also considering calendar-type cut-off dates for dicamba use.
As a journalist with more than 40 years of articles behind me, I can say that I've never covered a more complex or divisive agronomic question.
Journalists are trained to look at both sides of issues. As service journalists writing about agriculture, we're also often called upon to be problem solvers. Those two responsibilities weighed on my mind as I listened to the testimony in Arkansas that, if viewed critically, often had a similar message. The technology wasn't typically the issue as much as questions of side effects of chemical trespass.
Sometimes the problem solving part of my personality/job gets all tangled up in the effort to find answers. When I start to get dizzy from circular thinking, I often go back to asking questions.
The one thing that seems certain is that dicamba-tolerant seed is not going back in the bag for 2018. It will be planted.
That's why DTN planned a free webinar for 9 a.m. CST for Nov. 15 called: Dicamba: Where do we go from here? Our purpose is to explore the options and management decisions connected with this technology. We will continue to do that this winter with articles and information.
Here are a few critical questions that I would like to see every grower ask as they make seed decisions and contemplate the issue for the coming season:
1. Do I need this weed technology and why? What are my other options?
2. What and where are neighboring sensitive fields?
3. How many acres can I expect to spray or have custom sprayed, given the new EPA label restrictions or other restrictions specific to my state?
4. What is my plan if those acres do not get sprayed?
5. Do I have insurance coverage? What does my insurance cover?
What are your questions? You can register for our free DTN dicamba webinar here: http://bit.ly/…
Pamela Smith can be followed at Pamela.Smith@dtn.com
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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