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Public comment period on the extended use of dicamba set to begin

Perhaps the most controversial subject in Arkansas agriculture, the use of the herbicide dicamba, will now require public input.

A 30-day public comment period has been set for a proposed rule to allow the extended use of dicamba in Arkansas on soybean and cotton varieties resistant to dicamba. Written public comments will be accepted from March 24 through April 22, 2021.

The Arkansas State Plant Board approved a draft rule for dicamba use in Arkansas that would allow farmers and applicators to follow the federal label in the use of dicamba. The proposed rule would allow the over-the-top spraying of Engenia, Xtendimax, and Tavium through June 30 on soybeans and through July 30 on cotton. The proposed rule will also require a pH buffering agent, also called a Volatility Reducing Agent, to be tank-mixed with dicamba, and will require a downwind buffer of 240 feet.

The current cutoff date for spraying dicamba in Arkansas is May 25. The May 25 cutoff will remain in effect until a new rule has received final approval.

Arkansas farmers that use the herbicide may need to take note. Dicamba has been highly controversial in its application since the Arkansas Plant Board received about 1,000 damage complaints in May 2017, primarily in northeast Arkansas. Drift from the application of dicamba was suspected to be damaging other crops.

The board, which investigates and reviews complaints, previously enacted higher fines on improper dicamba applications meant to serve as a significant deterrent to potential violators.

Dicamba has been banned in several states. Dicamba has been used as a herbicide for more than 50 years to manage 200 broadleaf weeds.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in connection with the use of the herbicide nationwide during the last five years.

In accordance with the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act, the proposed rule will be open for public comment for 30 days. Following the public comment period, the board will review any comments received and determine if any changes should be adopted as a result of the comments. The rule will then go to the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Administrative Rules Subcommittee, with additional review and approval by the full Arkansas Legislative Council.

Comments may be submitted online at agriculture.arkansas.gov starting March 24 or mailed to: Plant Industries Division, P.O. Box 1069, Little Rock, AR 72203.