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Dicamba spraying cutoff date targeted by petitioning group

What’s been happening in run-up to Nov. 8 public comment meeting in Arkansas?

It has been a busy lead-up to the Nov. 8 public comment Arkansas Plant Board meeting regarding dicamba. Following a growing season where nearly 1,000 off-target drift complaints were filed, expectations are for an abundance of speakers at the meeting wanting their voices heard.

Regardless, the pre-meeting jostling between the state regulatory body — which is calling for a dicamba spraying cutoff of April 15 in 2018 — and a group of growers petitioning for a May cutoff, among a handful of other things, has been informative. If the mid-April cutoff is enacted it will effectively shut down applications on dicamba-tolerant soybeans.

In late October, Perry Galloway, who farms outside Jasper, Ark., spoke with Delta Farm Press. Weeks earlier, Galloway and six other growers wrote the Arkansas governor a letter regarding the situation. They then began a petition drive that quickly racked up signatures. Among Galloway’s comments:

On an Oct. 19 Plant Board meeting with the petitioners…

“Last Thursday (Oct. 19), when the Plant Board reviewed our petition, we came out feeling positive. We got some facts out there supporting why we feel the suggestions will work and are doable.

“There was a motion on the floor to accept our petition as presented. Then, after a bit of discussion, they wanted to look at a few more details involving the petition. The plan was for the Pesticide Committee to convene Monday (Oct. 23) to fine-tune the petition. Instead, they only poked holes in it and said why it wouldn’t work. So, they had all weekend to get all the other parties involved, and that was enough to put a damper on things.”

What happened when you met with the governor on (Oct. 18)?

“Nothing, really. I’m a supporter of (Gov.) Asa Hutchinson and in the public’s eye he’s probably done due diligence on this. I don’t know if he really has a personal opinion, but there’s not much he can do.

“He listened to us for a half hour and asked questions. He never said anything derogatory towards us or the Plant Board. The way politics are, that wasn’t a big surprise. In the end, he’s supporting the dicamba task force and Plant Board.”

Have your petition’s requests been altered?

“We haven’t changed anything. What our next move is, I don’t know. We have several moves we can make.

“I was encouraged when we left the Plant Board meeting last Thursday. You know, someone was finally listening, and we could come up with reasonable solutions. That feeling didn’t last long — after the Pesticide Committee met we were told the April 15 (spraying) cutoff was still in the cards, and we were dead in the water.

“We’re asking for a May 25 cutoff instead of mid-April. There are several reasons. The double digit complaints didn’t start coming into the Plant Board this year until the week of June 11. So, if you back up 14 to 21 days — which is how long it takes for symptomology to begin showing — that falls in the late May range.

“Second, if you look at temperatures and dicamba, most agree volatility really ramps up between 85 and 88 degrees. Well, the 10-year historical average high for this region at May 25 is 83 degrees. You don’t even get up to 85 degrees in Little Rock until June 1 and, by June 10, it’s around 88 degrees.

“So, temperature-wise regarding volatility, we felt was covered. It just makes a lot of sense.”

More on the suggested recommendations…

“We also recommended buffer zones. Some say a one-half mile buffer is plenty. Others folks claim you need 2 or 3 miles.

“There are also liability insurance requirements to consider. Commercial applicators must have liability insurance while private applicators don’t. There are some questions about whether the Plant Board can require a private applicator to have that insurance. It may be something the state legislature has to address — just like with the increased financial penalties for spraying off-target, which we support.

“The last thing we’re pushing for is a special permit. The Plant Board already has special permits available regarding cotton, rice and 2,4-D. We felt it would be pretty easy to implement the same type permit for dicamba soybeans.”

Expectations for the Nov. 8 Plant Board meeting…

“We’ll definitely attend and be well-represented. We quit counting how many acres folks on our side represent. There were just too many names, too many calls coming in supporting our efforts. This is a busy, busy time of year. We’re all farmers with other jobs to do, harvests to complete.

“Right now, those numbers are something like 1.4 million acres and 340 or 350 signatures. And more farmers are calling on a daily basis. We’ve got signs, t-shirts and bumper stickers available free to anyone who wants them. We’re also encouraging everyone to write in encouraging the board to support our petition or against the ban (on dicamba).”

Since you’re also an applicator, I’m curious about your take about these drift complaints occurring in a good growing season. What if it had been a bad season with high temperatures and bad weather and the like? Would that make a difference with drift complaints?

“I don’t know. A different environment would likely give us a different number of complaints — maybe for the better.

“I feel a lot of the issues came from a wet early season and then things dried up for three or four days. That put farmers behind and folks were spraying around the clock when there were probably inversions occurring. You can’t control the weather.

“As far as the symptomology affecting yield, I don’t like it. I know there are some cases where guys say their beans received (drift) damage hurting yields. But in most cases I’m aware of, the yield damage isn’t as bad as predicted. That may be a direct result of the good growing season.”

Do you think, instead of farmers, the governor is more scared of the housewives whose gardens have been drifted on? 

“That’s interesting and something I brought up to the Plant Board. In preparation for the Pesticide Committee meeting, I stopped at Lowe’s to see what was available to homeowners on the shelf. There were 62 different products — lawn and garden, weed-control products. Every company seems to have one.

“Out of those 62 products, 52 contained dicamba in the form of a DMA salt. DMA salts are illegal for farmers to use. I thought, ‘that should have some bearing on the fact that homeowners are so concerned about this. The products available to them actually contain dicamba in a form that’s illegal on the farm because of its known volatility.’

“Products that didn’t contain dicamba did contain Treflan or some kind of DMA herbicide plus quinclorac. Farmers know quinclorac very well because of the issues with Facet three or four years ago. That really caught me off guard – people are spraying their yards with quinclorac, but they’re sure farmers are killing their tomatoes? It’s possible the product they’re using on their yard is knocking their gardens.”

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