Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Some farmers still use dicamba despite ban, posing threats (and maybe tough choices) for other farmers

Dozens of Arkansas farmers could face thousands of dollars in fines after using a banned herbicide on their crops. Last year Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, introduced varieties of soybeans and cotton that are tolerant of the herbicide dicamba. But dicamba tends to drift to neighboring fields and damage or kill other crops and plants, Dan Charles reports for NPR.

At first Arkansas and a few other states restricted spraying of dicamba after April 15 to protect newly sprouted crops from from the pesticide. But after reports that dicamba had damaged millions of acres nationwide, last July Arkansas and Missouri banned the sale and use of dicamba, and other states placed restrictions on its use. Arkansas farmers who defy the ban face fines of $1,000 to $25,000 per violation, but some are still using the chemical this growing season because of concerns about weeds choking crops.

Two farmers who asked to remain anonymous told Charles that farmers used dicamba and Monsanto's dicamba-tolerant seeds because they think it will produce a bigger harvest. Another told Charles, "Spraying dicamba is the only way to stay in business, and paying the fine is cheaper than fighting weeds any other way."

But that can endanger other farmers' crops. Tad Nowlin, whose northeast Arkansas farm is just across the border from Missouri, told Charles that he was able to get rid of weeds without using dicamba, but his soybeans were damaged by dicamba drift from another farm. "If other people insist on using dicamba, he may be forced to plant those new dicamba-tolerant soybeans, because those plants won't get injured," Charles reports. "And if he does that, he'd be tempted to spray dicamba, too."

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