Wednesday, August 21, 2019

State regulators say EPA has stopped asking for reports of injuries alleged to be caused by drifting dicamba herbicide

States continue to collect complaints of injuries due to dicamba, a controversial pesticide that turns to powder and drifts onto nearby fields. Two states have reported record numbers of alleged dicamba injuries, but the Environmental Protection Agency may not officially know about them.

"Unlike last year, the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs is not getting routine updates from state regulators on these injury reports," Emily Unglesbee reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. "Last year, representatives from the federal agency participated in weekly conference calls with state pesticide regulators on dicamba injury complaints and investigative findings throughout the summer and fall. EPA officials also visited multiple states to tour dicamba injury and hold public forums on the topic. This year, this regular communication and canvassing has dried up."

Several states have banned or restricted use of the chemical, and many stakeholders have urged the EPA to ban it at the federal level. However, last year the agency chose to approve it for the next two years with additional restrictions.

"In an emailed statement to DTN on July 31, an EPA spokesperson said the agency was still working with states to 'determine the extent and frequency' of communications on dicamba injury in 2019," Unglesbee reports. "But, with the spray season mostly behind them, state regulators told a different story."

Regulators from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota told Unglesbee that the agency has not requested any information this year. "While most states are making informal reports on their experience with dicamba to the representatives in their regional office of the EPA, the national Office of Pesticide Programs, which oversees the dicamba registrations, has had little to no direct communications with most state regulators on this issue," Unglesbee reports. "Only the Arkansas Department of Agriculture reported sending 2019 injury statistics to EPA headquarters recently."

The EPA sought to replace last year's weekly calls with a one-time dicamba survey for states to fill out and submit at the end of the 2019 season. "However, state regulators demanded more information on the purpose of the survey, noting that their efforts to communicate dicamba injury to EPA in 2018 had resulted in few substantial changes to the dicamba registrations," Unglesbee reports. "Since those concerns were voiced, EPA has been silent on the topic of a survey or any dicamba information-gathering."

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