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Arkansas Farmers, Environmentalists Fight State Over Dicamba Regs

Some Arkansas farmers say they have seen damage to their crops despite being outside the one-mile exclusion zone for the herbicide Dicamba.(bugarskipavle3/AdobeStock)
Some Arkansas farmers say they have seen damage to their crops despite being outside the one-mile exclusion zone for the herbicide Dicamba.(bugarskipavle3/AdobeStock)
November 26, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Farming and conservation groups remain deeply concerned over the Arkansas Plant Board's 2018 decision to relax regulations on the herbicide Dicamba. The coalition says evidence continues to grow that the potent weed killer is drifting outside the area of its use and damaging vulnerable crops, trees and wildlife.

While they are calling for several changes in the regulations, the primary concern is with a one-mile buffer zone placed on its use. Dan Scheiman, conservation director with Audubon Arkansas, said Dicamba is causing significant damage outside that zone, which he believes should be expanded.

"There was apparent Dicamba symptoms on native plants all across eastern Arkansas, and a lot of the places where we found that damage was within up to two miles of where plant board inspectors found pigweed tissue samples that tested positive for Dicamba,” Scheiman said.

When the Environmental Protection Agency extended Dicamba's use on soybean and cotton in 2018, it also required chemical manufacturers to study off-site movement of the herbicide during the growing season. The results of that study have not yet been released.

However, Scheiman said evidence gathered in Arkansas by almost 250 Audubon volunteers shows there also is a need for an earlier cutoff date and other restrictions for Dicmba and its use during planting season.

"We're advocating for more restrictions on Dicamba,” he said. “We want to go back to the April 16 cutoff; we want two-mile buffers for sensitive areas, and we want a temperature cutoff on Dicamba."

Kim Erndt-Pitcher is a Habitat and Agricultural Program Specialist for the Illinois-based Prairie Rivers Network, which has a voluntary Tree and Plant Health monitoring program to identify damage from herbicides such as Dicamba and 2,4-D.

"Everyone that's concerned about this issue wants to see a high level of coordination and information-sharing as well as a lot of research that is really and truly looking into the aspect of volatilization and the long-term and short-term ecological impacts of these exposures,” Erndt-Pitcher said.

There is a public comment period currently open in Arkansas ahead of a planned Dec. 11 public hearing on the state's Dicamba regulations. Information about the meeting and a link to the comments site is online at ar.audubon.org/dicamba-comment.

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Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR