It's not even halfway through closing cases and levying fines for dicamba drift damage reported in 2016, and the Missouri Department of Agriculture is already warning it may take even longer to investigate this year's complaints.
Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn reports that civil fines ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 have been charged for confirmed dicamba drift complaints found in 2016. The department is still waiting on test results from the U.S. EPA to wrap up the remaining cases.
Old chemistry problems
In 2016, the blame for injury was on old herbicide technology sprayed off-label over dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean technology. Then MDA cautioned farmers that it was a violation of federal law to use any dicamba product with Bollgard II XtendFlex or Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybeans, because neither was labeled for use. Still some ignored the warnings and sprayed.
That year 130 drift complaints were logged at the state. However, 2017 brought three times the number of complaints and a completely new problem — the new technology is legal.
"This year, it is hard to tell," Chinn says. "There are no tests for the difference between old and new technology."
New technology issues
In 2017 new technology formulations like FeXapan, Engenia and Xtendimax were approved for use over dicamba-resistant cotton and soybeans. The products were sprayed. But something went wrong. Drift complaints started coming into the state ag department. In all, there were 311 alleged dicamba drift complaints.
"It is a complicated situation in 2017," Chinn says. "We may have old technology out there, but we also have new technology that was legal to spray. Now, we need to determine if it was sprayed according to the label."
Chinn says her department is working with other states, looking at how they are handling investigations. In addition, she says Missouri is asking the EPA if there is any method to use in determining dicamba formulation differences.
Chinn says her department will continue to work through the cases for both 2016 and 2017. However, she cautions that the process for 2017 may take time. "It is just a different set of circumstances surrounding dicamba drift this year," she says. "We've made progress on 2016, but we still have a ways to go before wrapping up those complaints."
Where the money goes
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed House Bill 662 in April 2016. The bill increases civil penalties for the off-label use of herbicides on a crop to $10,000 for each violation; for repeat offenders, that figure jumps to $25,000 per violation.
The bill states that during the complaint investigation, the MDA may subpoena witnesses and "compel the production of records, including but not limited to books, documents, certifications and records of any person relating to the person's application of any herbicide in any field." Failure to provide the information could result in a fine of up to $5,000.
Penalties collected for violations of the law will go to the school district where the violation occurred.
By the numbers
Here are the 2017 dicamba drift acres being investigated in Missouri:
• 108,000 acres of soybeans
• 18,900 tomato plants
• 758 acres of peaches
• 122 acres of watermelon
• 122 acres of vineyards
• 35 acres of alfalfa
• 27 acres of fruit and nut trees
• 10 acres of cantaloupe
• 2 acres of pumpkins
• 900 mums