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Controversial Weed Killer Dicamba Banned By Arkansas Plant Board

Members of the Arkansas State Plant Board hear public comments before voting in favor of the Dicamba ban.
Sarah Whites-Koditschek
Members of the Arkansas State Plant Board hear public comments before voting in favor of the Dicamba ban.

Listen to the story here.

Arkansas soybean farmers who rely on a chemical called Dicamba to kill weeds must stop using it during the growing season next year. That’s because it has allegedly been drifting to neighboring farms and killing crops.

The State Plant Board voted Wednesday to ban the use of dicamba after hearing public comments. 

Karen Hawkins, a farmer from Mississippi County, says her vegetables and peanuts were damaged by drifting dicamba from a neighbor’s farm.

Her cotton crop did well, but that’s because she purchased dicamba-resistant cotton seeds from Monsanto. At the public hearing, she said that farmers shouldn’t be scared into buying the Monsanto product to avoid damage.

“I believe that every farmer has a right, and I believe that other farmers’ rights stop immediately, and I mean immediately, when you start causing harm and damage to anyone else in the area. It needs to stop.”

Farmer Karen Hawkins spoke for the ban at a public hearing Wednesday.
Credit Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA
Farmer Karen Hawkins spoke for the ban at a public hearing Wednesday.

The use of dicamba has divided farming communities this year, and Hawkins says her brother, Mike Wallace, was killed in a dispute over it, but farmers like Jonathan Driver who’ve bought Monsanto's dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton seeds and used the spray to kill powerful weeds, like pigweed, say the ban means lost income.

“Economically it ruins our quality. If we lose quality, our foreign buyers are not going to buy,” he said.

According to plant board spokesperson Adriane Barnes, of the public comments it received, 27,055 of about 30,000 thousand supported the ban.


“It is true that the plant board has looked at exhaustive research. They have taken an exhaustive and thorough look at opinions, and where they are at today is a continued use of restrictions for dicamba in Arkansas,” she said.

She said the drift seems to have harmed all sorts of plants, vegetables, and even bees in the state.

But Monsanto vice president Scott Partridge says farmers need the product because weeds have grown resistant to regular weed killers.

“It is a significant problem in the state of Arkansas in particular. This is the most modern technology that’s available to help farmers produce more, in a more sustainable fashion. It’s just critical to have access to this tool,” he said.

With better training, farmers could learn to spray dicamba without seeing the chemical drift to neighbors whose crops aren’t resistant, Monsanto contends.

The state plant board wasn’t convinced.

The ban, which lasts between April and October of next year still has to be approved by the legislature.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media, a statewide journalism collaboration among public media organizations. Arkansas Public Media reporting is funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK and from members of the public. You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media’s reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.

Copyright 2017 Arkansas Public Media

Sarah Whites-Koditschek
Sarah Whites-Koditschek is a reporter and anchor for KUAR 89.1.
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