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EPA says farmers can use existing supplies of dicamba even though a court blocked sales and use of the weedkiller

EPA says farmers can use existing supplies of dicamba even though a court blocked sales and use of the weedkiller

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CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said this week that farmers can use existing supplies of an agricultural weed killer linked to crop damage, after a federal court blocked sales and use of the product last week.

The EPA said on Monday that farmers have until July 31 to use supplies of dicamba-based herbicides that they had as of June 3. The products, sold by Bayer AG and rivals, are known to drift away and damage crops that are not resistant to the chemical.

The unanimous 56-page ruling handed down on Wednesday by three judges from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent approval of top dicamba herbicides in 2018 “substantially understated” multiple risks recognized by the agency, and “also entirely failed to acknowledge" others.

Bayer applauded the EPA’s announcement.

“We welcome the EPA’s swift action,” Bayer said in a statement. “XtendiMax and the other low-volatility dicamba products are vital tools that many growers rely on to safely, successfully, and sustainably protect their crops from weeds.”

“Our top priority is making sure all our customers have the support they need to have a successful season,” Bayer added. The company said it would update users via this online site: www.RoundupReadyXtend.com/XtendimaxUpdates.

Creve Coeur-based Monsanto developed the dicamba-based weedkiller XtendiMax. Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on June 3 that the EPA had substantially understated the risks related to the use of the herbicides, which are sprayed on genetically engineered soybeans and cotton. The decision confused farmers as they wrap up planting in the world’s No. 2 soybean exporter, and different directions from states subsequently created an uneven playing field for growers.

“EPA’s order will mitigate some of the devastating economic consequences of the court’s decision for growers, and particularly rural communities, at a time they are experiencing great stress due to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the EPA said in a statement.

About 60% of the U.S. soybean crop this year is expected to be seeded with Bayer’s dicamba-resistant Xtend soybeans, according to Bayer. They need to be sprayed with the herbicide to ward off weeds that have developed a tolerance for another chemical, glyphosate.

Several farm states said they would allow dicamba spraying after the court decision as they waited for guidance from the EPA. Plaintiffs in the court case against the EPA had urged the agency to immediately tell states that it is was illegal to use the dicamba herbicides.

“Today’s disingenuous order from the EPA flies in the face of the court decision holding these pesticides unlawful,” attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a statement.

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