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New Survey Asks MN Farmers about Controversial Herbicide

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For the first time, the soybean crop in Minnesota this year is as big as the corn crop. (United Soybean Board)
For the first time, the soybean crop in Minnesota this year is as big as the corn crop. (United Soybean Board)
August 10, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new weed killer could be damaging the crop it's supposed to protect.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says it's fielding a record number of complaints about the newest version of an herbicide called dicamba.

It is designed for use with dicamba-resistant soybeans, but might be ruining some neighboring soybean fields that are not dicamba resistant.

Susan Stokes, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says more than 100 complaints have come in so far this summer, compared to just three last year. She says farmers may be reluctant to have their neighbors investigated. That's the reason for a new survey this week.

"So farmers can go to our website and just fill out a survey without filing a formal complaint," she explains. "We won't do a formal investigation then, but we really need as much information as we can to get our arms around this problem."

The survey will stay up until Sept. 15. The state will evaluate the results and may propose changes to dicamba rules to help soybean farmers make informed decisions for next season.

Stokes says the state is also looking for guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has registered dicamba for two years.

"The State of Minnesota – we registered the product for one year," she states. "So, we need to consider whether we will register it again next year and if we do, whether it'll be with restrictions.".

Stokes adds the dicamba concerns have been greatest in other states, such as Missouri and Arkansas.

But the soybean crop is growing in Minnesota. At 8.2 million acres, it is about the same size as corn – a historic first, according to David Kee, director of research, Minnesota Soybean Council.

"The solution to the problem is a) determine what the problem is, which is where we're at – we're in the determining stage – and b) proper stewardship of this technology," Kee states. "Farmers are legally obligated to apply dictated by the label on that product."

The rules on dicamba use are strict. Kee notes there could be legal or regulatory consequences if the state finds that farmers are not following those rules.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN