Cotton farmers feel sting of vacated dicamba regulations

Cotton farmers feel sting of vacated dicamba regulations-6/11/20

JACKSON COUNTY, Okla. (TNN) -Cotton farmers in Oklahoma are frustrated after a federal court ruling rolled back EPA regulations for use of a herbicide.

The court ruled last week that the EPA failed to comply with a federal pesticide law requiring it to consider the risks of the chemical.

Farmers have waited over 20 years for a technology that would give more weed control for cotton and soybeans.

About 3 years ago, they got it, when dicamba resistant products were approved.

“They have introduced it into the cotton and soybeans, so you can spray over the top and it doesn’t hurt the crop, but it will go ahead and get susceptible broad leaves,” said cotton farmer, and Oklahoma Farm Bureau member Keeff Felty.

But a federal court ruling last week rolled back the regulations on the Herbicide, with the petitioners citing the dicamba herbicides can cause harm to other plants through off-target drift when sprayed.

“Not just to soybean crops that weren’t tolerant, but to orchards, to public parks, to vegetable growers, to homeowners, trees, gardens, and we felt that there needed to be better oversight,” said Jim Goodman, National Family Farm Coalition Board President, one of the petitioners named in the lawsuit.

The court agreed, and their decision stopped all sales and distribution of the herbicide, allowing farmers only to use what they already had in their possession, through July 31st.

The frustration for farmers is that most cotton is already planted, and a lot of farmers hadn't purchased the herbicide yet.

“We started planting in April, May and June time frame,” said cotton farmer, and Oklahoma Farm Bureau member Matt Muller. “Now is the time to go to the field and start killing weeds. All of a sudden we’re told, we can’t use that product, after we’ve prepaid for this technology and are in critical time to start killing weeds.”

Muller says, a lot of farmers will adapt, and find a legal alternative. However, it will cost more.

“We’re already upside down,” said Muller. “Our budgets are bleeding red ink like crazy. We’ve been burning through equity for several years. And the economic damage from spending more money is the bigger issue.”

Muller fears that some farmers will get desperate and use products that aren’t banned, and aren’t safe.

“Use the right products, don’t be tempted to use the off-label products,” said Muller. “Even though they might be effective, think about your neighbor.”

The makers of the dicamba herbicides, have said they plan to seek EPA approval for their products, and are hopeful that it will be issued new registration for the 2021 grow season and beyond.

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