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Missouri and Arkansas ban dicamba herbicide as complaints snowball

Missouri and Arkansas ban dicamba herbicide as complaints snowball

From the Dicamba coverage by the Post-Dispatch series

As complaints of damage from dicamba spiral ever higher across multiple states, officials in both Missouri and Arkansas enacted bans Friday on the herbicide blamed for vaporizing and injuring crops without genetically engineered resistance. 

The more than 130 cases of suspected dicamba drift reported in Missouri this year already eclipse last year's totals, when many farmers saw heavy losses for crop yields in the Bootheel region of southeast Missouri.

Effective immediately, Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn announced Friday that sales and on-farm use of the volatile herbicide would be suspended. The move is being made "with an abundance of caution and is temporary until a more permanent solution is reached," according to an Agriculture Department news release.  

“We want to protect farmers and their livelihoods. At the same time, my commitment to technology and innovation in agriculture is unwavering,” Chinn said in the release. “That’s why I am asking the makers of these approved post-emergent products, researchers and farmers to work with us to determine how we can allow applications to resume this growing season, under certain agreed upon conditions.”

Affected crops in Missouri include about 45,000 acres of soybeans, as well as commercial tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, grapes, pumpkins and residential gardens and trees, according to a Twitter post from the University of Missouri's Weed Science program.

Reported damage in Arkansas has been even more severe, with 596 complaints of alleged dicamba misuse pouring into the Arkansas Agriculture Department. Following through on a recent recommendation from the department, the state moved Friday to enact a 120-day ban on the sale and use of dicamba, starting July 11. Arkansas will also raise fines for dicamba misuse up to $25,000, beginning Aug. 1.

Mississippi and Tennessee are among other states where widespread dicamba complaints are also being reported.

Dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean varieties were introduced by Creve Coeur-based Monsanto in 2015 and 2016, with a corresponding dicamba spray gaining regulatory approval late last year.

In the wake of Friday's bans, the company reiterated its stance that dicamba technology is essential for weed control and indicated that it will remain involved in Missouri's process of reviewing the herbicide.

"Dicamba products approved for in-crop use are valuable tools for growers to manage problematic weeds," the company said in a statement. "Monsanto is committed to remaining actively engaged in this conversation."

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