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Cotton reacts to court’s dicamba decision

The Arizona court's ruling comes at a problematic time for U.S. cotton farmers because many farmers have made their cropping decisions and invested money to use dicamba products in 2024.

Brad Haire

February 8, 2024

3 Min Read
Brad Haire

Update: Feb. 14, EPA issued an Existing Stocks Order for Dicamba. The order addresses use of the over-the-top application of formerly registered dicamba products and authorizes limited sale and distribution of dicamba products already in the possession of growers or in the channels of trade and outside the control of the pesticide companies.

Dicamba-tolerant varieties account for more than three-quarters of the cotton grown in the United States. This week’s decision by an Arizona federal court to vacate dicamba herbicides before the 2024 growing season has placed U.S. cotton growers in a difficult situation.

The court says the EPA didn’t stick with 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. The court’s judgment bans over-the-top use of dicamba on soybeans also.

“The ruling 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 National Cotton Council said in a Feb. 7 statement, following the court’s decision.

Related:Federal court revokes dicamba approval

Without widely available alternatives, losing the foundational herbicides in the dicamba-tolerant weed control system will put millions of acres in jeopardy of reduced production, NCC said. The loss of over-the-top dicamba products exacerbates an already difficult economic situation with current prices below the costs of production.

“We urge EPA to immediately appeal the ruling. 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,” NCC said.

As of the printing of this issue of Southeast Farm Press, EPA had not issued statement on the court’s decision.

The plaintiffs in the case are the National Family Farm Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Courts have vacated the labels for over-the-top uses of dicamba in cotton and soybeans before.

On June 3, 2020, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order vacating three of EPA’s pesticide registrations containing the active ingredient dicamba.

On June 8, 2020, EPA issued a final cancellation order providing farmers with clarity following the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. This cancellation order outlined limited and specific circumstances under which existing stocks of the three affected dicamba products could be used for a limited period. EPA’s order advanced protection of public health and the environment by ensuring use of existing stocks followed important application procedures.

On October 27, 2020, EPA registration two end-use dicamba products and extended the existing registration for one other dicamba product, all for applications only on dicamba-tolerant cotton and dicamba-tolerant soybeans.

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