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Proposed Arkansas dicamba spraying cutoff date remains April 15

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On Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 3), the Arkansas Plant Board decided to stick with the same proposed dicamba regulations (http://www.aad.arkansas.gov/Websites/aad/files/Content/6085698/Leg-Coun.138-A_-_MarkUpPesticideEnforcementResponseRegulation-CivilPenalty.pdf) it first passed last fall.

The second go-around with the regulations became necessary when, in December, state lawmakers asked the board to reconsider a mid-April spraying cutoff date along with the possibility of establishing spraying zones. The lawmakers, as part of the Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC), said the Plant Board should consider revising those rules using “scientific-based evidence, a dividing line to create north and south zones, and ambient temperature and humidity applicable to temperature inversion during night-time hours.”

Dicamba is being heavily scrutinized on the heels of a 2017 growing season with nearly 1,000 off-target drift complaints in the state. Other states impacted by dicamba drift are also wrestling with regulations.

Last year, dicamba use was spurred by farmers planting more dicamba-tolerant Xtend soybeans and cotton around the nation. Several new dicamba formulations, including Monsanto’s XtendiMax and BASF’s Engenia, promise to minimize drift.

The day’s action began at 10 a.m. with the Plant Board’s Pesticide Committee. A large crowd, some of it standing, squeezed into the meeting room and hallway during a lengthy discussion of the dicamba issues. In the end, one member of Pesticide Committee voted against sending the same regulations proposed in 2017 to the full Plant Board.

The full board then met after lunch and gave the regulations more debate, including whether to change the proposed dicamba spraying cutoff period between April 15 and Oct. 31. A vote taken mid-afternoon – 11 to one with one recusal — sent the same proposed regulation package back to the Arkansas Legislative Committee. The legislative committee is expected to address the regulations on Jan. 16.

The Plant Board action is sure to displease a large contingent of Arkansas farmers, estimated to represent nearly 1.5 million soybean acres. A lawsuit by the group was filed against the board late last year, largely aimed at moving any cutoff date back to May or June.

Another lawsuit against the Plant Board has been filed by Monsanto. Following the Plant Board latest vote, Scott Partridge says the company will approach the litigation with vigor. Where do things stand with the suit?

The plant board, says the Monsanto vice president of global strategies, “has filed a response and we look forward to a hearing as soon as possible. Whether that comes before the (next ALC meeting) on Jan. 16, or after, is up to scheduling with the court.”

The ALC, says Partridge, “instructed the Plant Board to ‘hit the pause button, go back and do your job.’ They were specifically instructed to take into account all the science and to look at what’s happening in the other 33 states that have adopted the new EPA label. The Plant Board didn’t do their job. … They once again came up with an arbitrary recommendation.”

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