The Legislative Council
yesterday approved a subcommittee's recommendation to stall a proposed ban on the controversial herbicide dicamba.
The decision left some farmers who favor the ban unhappy — and frustrated with a process that blocked the proposal before testimony was even heard.
According to a report from a dicamba task force created by the governor, as of September, there had been 963 complaints alleging dicamba misuse over 26 Arkansas counties. Shawn Peebles
, an Augusta farmer who served on the task force, contacted the Arkansas Times
to express his frustration with the legislature's actions this week:
As a former dicamba task force member, Arkansas farmer, and member of the USDA SPECIALTY CROP committee who testified at this legislative session: Why is no one questioning the fact the senator Bill Sample kicked this back before the hearing started before any testimony was heard?!?!? Hell, the man didn't even have the Plant Board's recommendation in hand yet. Just curious. Monsanto is buying their way through Arkansas politics and no one will cover it. When this product is released it will do irreparable damage to Arkansas agriculture.
Previously, a 120-day moratorium was placed last summer on use of the herbicide, which many Arkansas farmers say has caused massive damage to their crops due to drift. The task force recommended a new spraying ban, which would have lasted from April 16 through October 31, with a plan to revisit the issue for the 2019 growing season after more data and research has been collected and reviewed. The Plant Board approved that ban in November. However, it still needed legislative approval to move forward. Instead, this week the Legislative Council declined to initiate the ban and punted it back to the Plant Board.
Farmers are divided on the question. The chemical giant BASF (which produces a version of the herbicide) and agricultural giant Monsanto (which engineers dicamba-resistant seed and sells its own version of the chemical) have actively resisted the state's movement toward a ban. Monsanto has filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed ban in Pulaski County Circuit Court and asked for an injunction. The lawsuit claims that the April 16 cutoff date is arbitrary.
The motion to send it back to the Plant Board was first made on Tuesday by Sen. Bill Sample
in the Legislative Council Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee. Sample echoed Monsanto's complaint that the cutoff date was arbitrary; the Legislative Council is recommending that the Plant Board revisit the cutoff date issue, including looking at different cutoff dates based on region and temperature.
Sample left the building immediately after his motion to stall the ban was approved, prior to hearing any testimony. The subcommittee then heard an hour's worth of testimony from five farmers — but at that point, the recommendation to halt the ban and punt it back to the Plant Board had already been made.
Sample told the Democrat-Gazette
that he left before testimony began because he was ill with bronchitis.