Dicamba Dilema

Controversy over dicamba herbicides is not new and that is a part of the problem. Questions and complaints have been raised the last few years leading to greater education, training and tighter windows for use. Still reports of damage have continued. Some of those cases are probably justified while others probably aren’t. While some want the product banned many soybean and cotton growers say it is a needed tool.

Many producers are concerned that if dicamba is banned it will make it harder for them to have access to new technologies in the future. As we’ve seen with so many issues in agriculture, this one is now caught in the middle of a legal battle. A recent Ninth circuit court ruling would have banned the use of 3 dicamba products but EPA stepped in to allow existing stocks of those products to be used while decertifying them as of July 31. EPA has defended their decision by drawing a line between new sales of the products and use of existing ones. This would make a good script for a TV legal show but is an issue that can’t be resolved in a 60 minute program.

Obviously those who oppose dicamba want its USE stopped immediately while EPA, with the support of many in the ag community, is allowing it to continue for now. Timing is an important part of this debate. Banning a product during its season of use puts growers in a tough spot. Some had already used the products and others had already purchased them. It’s a little late to make the kind of major changes the court ruling called for.

EPA’s decision is questionable as well. Why didn’t EPA immediately appeal the court decision and ask for a stay? Why didn’t they use the research and science they based their approval of dicamba on to fight the court ruling? By decertifying the products after July 31 their original approval decision looks questionable. There are strong arguments to be made by both sides of this issue but what has been and continues to be missing is clarity and resolution to the issue. EPA seemingly has found a legal loophole for now but a more definitive solution is needed.

Dicamba will become a test case for the development, sale and use of future products. Too much is at stake to count on legal loopholes. As yet another agriculture issue makes its way through the legal system it seems the only real winners are the trial lawyers.