Arkansas Plant Board votes for usage of dicamba

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Arkansas Plant Board votes for usage of dicamba; Petition proposes end date, permits
by Stephen Steed
Arkansas Democrat Gezette | November 6, 2018

The state Plant Board gave tentative approval Monday to allowing dicamba for in-crop use next year, though the matter won't be settled for several more weeks.

The board approved a formal "petition for rule making" filed by a group of farmers last month asking for a June 15 cutoff date on spraying a herbicide linked to damage to crops and to other vegetation not tolerant of the chemical the last three growing seasons in Arkansas and other states. The petition asked that spraying of dicamba after June 15 be allowed only by special permit.

Franklin Fogleman of Marion, a Crittenden County farmer who drew up the petition on behalf of 27 other farmers, told the board in his 20-minute presentation that "a large portion of Arkansas farmers" need dicamba to fight pigweed that has grown resistant to other herbicides.

The petition also sets buffers for susceptible crops, including a 1-mile buffer between certified-organic crops and fields where dicamba is sprayed.

Ultimately, after two earlier votes that left the board stuck on high center, the panel voted 11-4 to accept the petition and move it to a 30-day public-comment period and public hearing. The vote mirrors a struggle faced by Plant Board members, farmers and others the past two years: narrow votes, wrangling over parliamentary procedure and, ultimately, sometimes contentious public discussion.

The board's vote follows the announcement last week by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to allow dicamba for in-crop use on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans for another two years, or through the 2020 growing season.

The board, a division of the Arkansas Agriculture Department, received about 1,000 complaints last year of dicamba damage, mainly to soybeans but also to fruits, vegetables, trees, ornamental shrubs and bushes, and to wild vegetation key to pollination.

The 2017 deluge of complaints led to an emergency, 120-day ban that year on the chemical in Arkansas. It also led to the board prohibiting in-crop use of dicamba this year from April 16 through harvest. Still, the board has received 200 complaints this year, leading officials to believe that some farmers violated the ban throughout the summer.

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