The EPA announced that it has reached an agreement with manufacturers of the herbicide dicamba, under which the companies will voluntarily change information on labels to mitigate spray drift of the substance.
In 2016, the EPA registered new dicamba formulations approved for over-the-top use (i.e., use on growing plants) to control weeds in cotton and soybean plants. These crops are genetically engineered (GE) to resist dicamba. Once registration was approved, many farmers made use of the herbicide. Farmers subsequently reported large-scale loss of nearby crops that were not engineered to resist dicamba.
In 2016, 1 million acres of farmland were planted with dicamba-resistant seeds, which resulted in 200,000 acres of damaged crops, according to news reports. It was estimated that 15 million to 18 million acres of farmland were planted with dicamba-resistant seeds in 2017. In July, Arkansas banned the spray of dicamba for 120 days. Shortly afterward, Missouri did the same after receiving more than 130 dicamba-related complaints.
Restricted Use Classification
The EPA states that dicamba manufacturers Monsanto, BASF, and DuPont, the only companies that manufacture the herbicide for over-the-top use, will voluntarily change their labels to reduce the potential for spray drift of dicamba. The agreed-upon changes include:
- Classifying products as restricted use, thereby requiring that only certified applicators with special training and those under their supervision may apply them; certified applicators will receive dicamba-specific training to reinforce proper use;
- Requiring farmers to maintain records regarding the use of these products to improve compliance with label restrictions;
- Limiting applications to when maximum wind speeds are below 10 miles per hour ((mph), down from 15 mph) to reduce potential spray drift;
- Reducing the times during the day when applications can occur;
- Incorporating tank cleanout language to prevent cross-contamination; and
- Enhancing susceptible crop language and recordkeeping with sensitive crop registries to increase awareness of risk to especially sensitive crops nearby.
According to the Agency, manufacturers have agreed to a process to get the revised labels into the hands of farmers in time for the 2018 use season. Each company agreed to a process to address products currently in the marketplace, if necessary. This may involve certain retailers relabeling the products and providing a new label or manufacturers reclaiming products from certain retailers for relabeling.
The Agency adds that it will monitor the success of these changes to help inform decisions about allowing the continued over-the-top use of dicamba beyond the 2018 growing season. When the EPA registered these products, it set the registrations to automatically expire in 2 years to allow changes to the registration, if necessary.
The registration of the new use for dicamba on GE cotton and soybean will allow its use in 34 states.
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