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Glyphosate drift task force developing recommendations

There are a lot of things going on right now. A lot of it has me thinking that I need to find a way to re-retire.

I get a lot of questions about what is going on with the glyphosate task force. We have completed our set of meetings to which we invited representatives of different segments of the industry for comments and input. Now we’ll draft a set of recommendations that will go to the pesticide committee of the Arkansas State Plant Board.

Discussions and recommended actions have included broad topics such as education, regulation, and product formulation. The discussions have included aerial application, commercial ground application and private ground application.

If more education, training and regulation are to be done, they will come at a cost. There has been a lot of discussion as to how to pay for it.

The challenge is to find a way to significantly reduce the amount of off-target movement in a manner that does not overly restrict its use. There are a couple of pretty sure bets regarding the glyphosate situation: (1) changes are going to occur, and (2) everyone will not be happy with everything that is done.

I was also recently at a Plant Board meeting where there was a lot of discussion of the 2,4–D drift situation on cotton. The glyphosate drift task force has not been asked for formal recommendations, but we have been asked for comments and input.

That is another area where significant changes are going to occur and not everyone will be happy with whatever is done.

There should be a common theme here: if we cannot keep the herbicides we so desperately need on the target area, changes are going to occur.

We constantly hear, “If the regulations we currently have in place were enforced and if the penalties were stiff enough, we would not need any more regulations.”

While I am in that camp to an extent, that does not tell the whole story. Some of what is happening is due to honest mistakes and education can help some there.

In the case of glyphosate, a lot of applicators believe that formulation changes could help a lot. I believe that as well.

However, a lot of the problems we are having are due to disregard for the neighbor’s crop. If someone is going to willfully apply a herbicide knowing it could cause problems, it is impossible to put enough people in the field to regulate.

Even if violators are caught and punished, the damage may have already put the individual farmer with the damage out of business. Most of the 2,4–D complaints this year will wind up being “source undetermined.” For the farmer that is affected, there is no recourse. A lot of glyphosate complaints will fall into that same category.

Another meeting that I have been asked to participate in is a regional meeting to discuss ways to get the LL601 contaminant out of the 2007 U.S. rice production. My being asked to participate is somewhat puzzling since all of my training is in how to kill weeds. However, if someone thinks I can somehow help the industry I will gladly try. Again, whatever decisions are made will not please everyone.

A farmer told me, “I do not like having to become a political activist and get involved in all of these issues that are affecting my livelihood.” What he was saying is, “I would really like to just be able to farm.”

I know exactly how he feels. As a weed scientist I do not enjoy having to get involved in a lot of issues that involve everything from politics to one group loving you and another being mad at you. I would be much happier just telling folks how to kill weeds.

I guess it is just the times we live in. If all farmers were under much less economic stress some of these issues would go away. Until then, hang on.


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