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New dicamba report from EPA could cause trouble in 2022

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A new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has many farmers worried about the continued use of dicamba for the 2022 growing season. 

This week, the EPA released a 73-page report detailing 3,500 reports of dicamba drift, even after an increase in regulations during the 2021 growing season. 

In the summary of the report, it states that the agency will not have enough time to come to a decision by the 2022 growing season. “The regulatory tools that the Agency could use to address the extent and severity of the alleged dicamba related incidents are unlikely to be fully implemented by the 2022 growing season due to the statutory processes the Agency is required to follow.”

However, after reading the report, agriculture groups are concerned with the potential of significant gaps in the data provided by the agency. Farm groups including the American Soybean Association (ASA), National Cotton Council (NCC), and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) are raising questions about data released by EPA regarding reported dicamba off-target complaints during the 2021 growing season.

For example:

  • It is not clear whether complaints were submitted to multiple sources/regulators and were therefore double-counted.
  • It is unclear if EPA, state regulators, or others investigated complaints to verify injury or assess potential causes.

Alan Meadows, a soybean grower from Halls, Tennessee, and ASA director said, “The agricultural community expects regulators to be clear with the data on which they are making decisions. It is concerning the information released provides an incomplete picture. Data that is not present in this EPA release may tell as much or more about the story than what the agency has included.”

NCC Chairman Kent Fountain, a Georgia cotton producer, said, “EPA’s report doesn’t align with what the U.S. cotton industry has seen and heard in the field. The data needs to be analyzed carefully to ensure accuracy because dicamba is too important to our industry for decisions to be made on incomplete or faulty data.”

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said, “The decisions EPA makes regarding herbicides have wide-ranging consequences for America’s farmers and ranchers, so they should be made after careful review and consideration of peer-reviewed science. The stakes are simply too high to make major label changes without due diligence from EPA to learn all the facts surrounding reported incidents. America’s farmers deserve a fair process as they work to use climate-smart practices to produce food, fuel and fiber for our nation.”

Last year, manufacturers were blocked by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals from selling dicamba-based weed killers in the United States during the middle of the growing season. However, in October of 2020, EPA approved dicamba for over-the-top use for next 5 years.

When used correctly and without instances of drift, dicamba has become a valuable tool for helping to decrease weed pressures and ultimately improve yields.

With more uncertainty surrounding the herbicide, farmers are once again left with many unknowns going into the new season. 

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