Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Easy-to-misuse weed killer pits Delta farmers against each other, may have led to a murder

Mike Wallace: shot to death
after arguing about dicamba.
The dispute over a common pesticide is causing bad blood between neighbors in farming communities. "The furor surrounding the herbicide known as dicamba has quickly become the biggest controversy of its kind in U.S. agriculture," reports Andrew DeMillo for The Associated Press. Dicamba was temporarily banned in Arkansas and Missouri on July 7, and Tennessee soon after announced new restrictions on when and by whom it could be sprayed.

Dicamba has been in use since World War II, but the recent problems began after farmers started spraying it on soybeans and cotton genetically modified to resist dicamba, in an effort to kill weeds that have become resistant to the most common herbicide, glyphosate (Roundup). Dicamba evaporates easily and drifts into other farmers' fields, causing damage to non-resistant crops and injury to farm workers. The Arkansas Plant Board "has received more than 630 complaints about dicamba so far this year, many more than the 250 or so total complaints normally received in a full year," DeMillo notes.

The chemical "has made good neighbors look like bad neighbors," Arkansas farmer Reed Storey told DeMillo. Storey says half his soybean crop has been damaged by drifting dicamba. Other farmers say that they need dicamba to kill pigweed, which can rapidly threaten a soybean crop. “We cannot lose this technology,” Arkansas soybean farmer Perry Galloway said to DeMillo. “We’ve come too far at this point to just throw it away.”

The dispute is even suspected as a factor in the murder of another Arkansas soybean farmer, Mike Wallace, in Mississippi County in northeast Arkansas. "Farm worker Allan Curtis Jones, 27, is accused of shooting Wallace, 55, in a confrontation over dicamba, which Wallace believed had drifted from the farm where Jones worked to damage his soybean crop," DeMillo reports.

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