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The real issue in the dicamba debate


Let me start off by saying — so I won’t be accused of not admitting — there is a dicamba issue. Anyone who says otherwise is mistaken. As of July 30, there had been 230 chemical complaints to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, of which 143 of those are alleging dicamba damage.

Now, let me focus on the most dangerous issue within the issue: damaged relationships. They will have an effect long after we find out the true results of why there is off-target movement, yield loss/gain, and what the powers that be are going to do about it. Farmer-to-agriculture tech companies, farmer-to-retailers, farmer-to-agronomists, farmer-to-consumer, and most importantly farmer-to-farmer relationships are at stake. We all rely on each other for success.

In my opinion, this is the most divisive issue that my generation has witnessed among farmers, retailers, dealers, agronomists, and the technology companies that are growing the SAME crops for the same purposes. This is not organic vs. GMO, food vs. fuel, cotton vs. corn. These are all people associated with the same species of crop, mostly growing them for the same markets, just a difference in what technology they choose to utilize. We are on the same team. We are most all facing the same weed and agronomic issues. We all use modern technology — seed, chemical, equipment, data management — and we all want the pipeline full of the newest and best available products to make us more efficient, more productive, and mostly more profitable.

Image courtesy of Bruce Potter, University of Minnesota Extension

I can’t help but wonder what ramifications the dicamba issue will have on new product approvals and how government regulation and bureaucracy, something we have all fought to reduce, will now dictate more of what we can and can’t do. It has been published numerous times to file complaints with the Department of Agriculture. I truly hope this is the very last resort that is being taken. I urge my fellow farmers to handle off-target issues locally. In my opinion, the DOA complaints open up the door for more government regulation, fines, accusations (some legit, some not), fractured relationships, and guess what … no payout from the government to help with your problem. We will get to watch the complaint number tick higher, but what solution is the government going to offer us for resolve? The industry created this technology at the demand of the farmers who wanted it. Let the industry and the farmers figure out the solutions. Everyone should want that.

Obviously, there are chemical issues and off-target issues every year. I can’t help but wonder if the Roundup Ready launch would have had similar issue discussion if in 1996 we had smart phones, social media platforms, and the instant ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time (whether we know them or not). I know … different time, different product. But there are plenty of agriculture-tech-company haters to go around today that are also fueling the dicamba fire and plenty of lawyers looking to get rich. What is sad: People posting pictures of their off-target issues and getting ridiculed. What is worse: People posting their success stories of dicamba use and getting ridiculed. It is madness.

I appreciate all those who have posted, written, and photographed their own story. It makes us all stop and think and be more in-tune with our own decisions. Obviously, there are successes and failures on the dicamba issue. What did applicator A do to find success and what did applicator B do that caused problems? I know there are people working hard to figure this out. We need to work together as an industry to fix the problems and bring solutions. A lot is invested on every angle of this. Probably too much to turn back. I hope we can save this technology and the technology of the future.

My family planted soybeans with both dicamba and non-dicamba tolerances, and my immediate area has had minimal issues. I probably have the worst 100 acres affected by a neighboring applicator’s unintended off-target movement in my area. My family sprayed 80 percent of our dicamba soybeans with approved dicamba product. As of today, I have received no calls or complaints from my neighboring farmers. Granted, I spent a lot of time on the phone finding out what everyone had planted, and I will admit I chose not to spray dicamba on high-risk areas. I talked to a neighbor who plants all non-GMO soybeans on a significant acreage, and he had found no damage found as of today. Meanwhile, we realize better weed control this year than in recent history.

I know there are more success stories out there, but like any topic, most of the focus is only on the negative. I understand the frustration of my own damaged soybeans, but I also know too well the frustration of resistant weed pressure. We all need better tools at our disposal. I have no interest in reverting back to tillage on my sensitive soils.

In the end, when the smoke has cleared, the dust settled, and harvest 2017 in the bin, I hope we all are smarter and more educated about the dicamba issue. I hope relationships are not damaged beyond repair and I hope the first call you all made was to your neighbor, your retailer, your friend, or applicator to keep the issue in local control where hopefully a successful agreement was reached. And I hope those who unintentionally caused damage be responsible and work the problem out. The roles will be reversed somewhere down the road. We need conversations in our industry, not preaching or telling. Conversations with consumers, conversations with government, and conversations among farm leadership happen. It is now time for conversations with our neighbors, friends, industry experts, and ourselves if we have hope of a solution.


Grant Strom operates a nearly 5,000-acre family farm in Knox County, Illinois. He grows grows corn, soybeans, and some wheat and hay, and he and his wife were selected for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2017 Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award.

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