LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday recommended a regulatory panel look at revising its proposed ban of an herbicide farmers in several states say has drifted onto their crops and caused damage, nearly a month after a maker of the weed killer asked a judge to halt the prohibition.
A subcommittee of the Legislative Council voted to delay considering the proposed rules by the state Plant Board to prohibit dicamba's from April 16 through Oct. 31 next year. The subcommittee's recommendation on Friday goes before the full council, which is the Legislature's primary governing body when lawmakers aren't in session. The council has the power to approve or reject the proposed ban.
State Sen. Bill Sample said he wanted the Plant Board to come up with a new cutoff date based on scientific evidence and potentially a dividing line based on geography in the state.
"An arbitrary date will not do any good because you will either set it too early or too late," Sample said.
Dicamba has been around for decades, but problems arose over the past couple of years as farmers began to use it on soybean and cotton fields where they planted new seeds engineered to be resistant to the herbicide. Because it can easily evaporate after being applied, the chemical sometimes settles on neighboring fields. The state earlier this year approved a temporary ban on the herbicide's sale and use, and has received nearly 1,000 complaints about dicamba this year.
"How can we be assured this is not going to happen again without this cutoff date?" David Wildy, a farmer from northeast Arkansas who has seen damage from dicamba drifting onto his crops, told lawmakers
Monsanto, which makes dicamba, has filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court challenging the ban and claiming the Plant Board exceeded its authority in prohibiting the weed killer. The Missouri-based company has asked a judge to block the state from enforcing the ban, and a hearing in the case is scheduled next month.
"We're pleased for the growers of Arkansas that the legislative committee has hit the pause button and said go study the science and follow the science," said Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president for global strategy.
Farmers have also complained about dicamba causing damage to their crops in other states, including Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. Minnesota on Tuesday set a June 20 cut-off date for applying the herbicide and prohibited applications when the temperature or forecast high for the day is above 85 degrees.
The Environmental Protection Agency in October announced a deal with Monsanto and two other makers of dicamba herbicides, BASF and DuPont, for new voluntary restrictions on the weed killer's use.
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