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February 12, 2024
Unfortunate, disappointing and untimely are how some are describing last week’s decision by an Arizona federal court to vacate dicamba herbicides as producers are preparing to plant.
The court’s ruling has halted the use of over-the-top dicamba herbicides on cotton and soybeans. Dicamba-tolerant cotton varieties account for more than three-quarters of U.S.-grown cotton.
The timing couldn’t be worse for South Texas producers, said Jeff Nunley, the South Texas Cotton & Grain Association executive director.
“Corn planting is underway in South Texas and cotton planting will begin within the next three weeks. This leaves our farmers with no alternatives to make any changes in response to the court’s decision to vacate the registration for over-the-top dicamba products registered for use on the planting seed they’ve already purchased and are getting ready to plant,” he said.
The loss worsens the difficult economic conditions farmers face “because they are stuck with planting seed they have purchased and will face difficult and expensive choices to manage their crop without availability of over-the-top dicamba products,” he said.
The court ruled that the EPA didn’t abide by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act rules regarding notice and comment periods when the agency reregistered over-the-top uses of dicamba in 2020 for cotton and soybeans.
“It’s unfortunate, after combatting an uncooperative Mother Nature and a volatile market, that we have this ruling staring us in the face to start 2024,” said Plains Cotton Growers (PCG) President Martin Stoerner in a recent PCG newsletter. “And while things are uncertain at the moment, the impact of this ruling could have dire consequences to our industry.”
In a statement, the National Cotton Council said the decision comes “at an especially problematic time of the year as many producers have already made their cropping decisions, secured seed and are doing preparatory field work. The timing of this ruling also will not allow for the production of seed with alternative herbicide technology in time for 2024 planting.”
The council urged EPA to appeal the decision.
“If allowed to stand, the court’s decision is another blow that will stifle the development and adoption of new technologies that not only increase productivity but bring forth environmental benefits such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we urge EPA to move quickly in exploring all available options to mitigate the economic damage that will result if growers do not have access to this critical crop protection product.”
PCG CEO Kody Bessent said PCG stands with NCC.
“Our producers should have all crop protection tools available to them when producing our fiber,” Bessent said in the statement. “Our local, state and national economies depend on it.”
Roby, Texas, cotton producer and 2024 Farm Press High Cotton winner Richard Gaona emphasized the importance of this ruling. “The loss of over-the-top dicamba products will make it very difficult for cotton producers to participate in conservation programs that are currently subsidized by Congress and USDA (such as cover crops, reduced tillage, no till).”
“It’s extremely disappointing to see the continued attack on the limited number of tools that producers have available to combat pests,” said Todd Baughman, Oklahoma State University weed scientist. “While I have not read the court document, it is frustrating to see decisions being made based on little or no scientific backing.”
While the news of this ruling is not a surprise, Pete Dotray, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension weed scientist, said it’s causing producers to rethink their current weed management strategies.
“A focus on preplant and at-plant soil active herbicides is important regardless of the crop technology planted, and without dicamba, these inputs will have an increased emphasis,” he told Farm Press. “We are all waiting for a response from the EPA, and initial patience for at least the next several days needs to be practiced. What we know today may be very different from what we know when we start to put seeds in the ground. And for some of our producers, it’s about that time.”
Editor, Southwest Farm Press
Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.
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