Arkansas governor OKs emergency dicamba ban, higher fines for misapplications

dicamba injury

Suspected dicamba drift onto soybeans—photo courtesy University of Arkansas

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison has sided with two Arkansas Plant Board recommendations that prohibit the sale and use of dicamba herbicide on Xtend crops as well as increase fines for illegal use of the herbicide. The emergency rules would be effective for 120 days.

Hutchinson was acting on proposals that the Plant Board passed June 23.

Although Hutchison said an outright ban on the sale and use of dicamba concerned him because more limited options had not been fully debated, he said he was approving the measure because of the sheer number of complaints.

“I know the Plant Board also shares my concerns that this action is being taken in the middle of the growing season, but the volume of complaints justify the emergency action,” Hutchinson wrote in a June 30 letter to the Plant Board.

As of that day, the Plant Board had received 507 complaints from 21 counties.

In approving the proposal, the governor requested the Plant Board develop a task force to review the dicamba technology, investigate the current problem with use and application, and make longer-term recommendations.

Currently, Arkansas growers are only allowed to apply Engenia brand dicamba herbicide in season over the top of Xtend soybeans and XtendFlex cotton. Both crops have been genetically modified to withstand dicamba herbicide.

Two other dicamba formulations, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology from Monsanto and FeXipan with VaporGrip Technology from DuPont, are prohibited in Arkansas.

In January of this year, the Plant Board ruled that only Engenia’s BAPMA formulation of dicamba could be used because product registrant BASF provided data that showed significantly reduced volatility. The board prohibited in-season applications of DGA formulations, which include XtendiMax and FeXipan, because of concerns of off-target movement.

At the same time, the Plant Board implemented restrictions on Engenia applications that included a maximum wind speed of 10 mph, compared to the 15 mph on the federal label; 100-foot buffers around all Eugenia-treated fields; and a one-fourth mile buffer between an Eugenia-treated field and a downwind sensitive crop. Sensitive crops include soybean varieties that do not contain the Xtend trait.

The second measure approved by Hutchison would allow the Plant Board to assess civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 for egregious violations. Egregious violations are defined as significant off-target applications of dicamba, other auxin-containing herbicides or any new herbicide technology registered after Act 778 takes effect.

The auxin herbicide family also includes 2,4-D, picloram, clopyralid, triclopyr and fluroxypur.

Although the Arkansas Legislature earlier this year passed Act 778, which would impose the same penalties, the law doesn’t take effect until Aug. 1. The Plant Board’s proposal to increase fines was submitted to the governor as a 120-day emergency regulation as well as a regulatory proposed rule.

Both measures now move to the executive subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for legal approval. Once approved, they take effect immediately.