By a narrow 8-7 vote, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s State Plant Board chose to initiate the rulemaking process that could potentially allow Arkansas farmers and applicators to follow the federal label when using dicamba herbicide.
Arkansas currently has the earliest dicamba spray cutoff date in the country at May 25. The proposed rule would allow the over-the-top spraying of Engenia, XtendiMax, and Tavium through June 30 on soybeans and through July 30 on cotton. The proposed rule will also require a pH buffering agent, also called a Volatility Reducing Agent, to be tank-mixed with dicamba, and will require a downwind buffer between 240 - 310 feet.
The vote took place at the board’s regularly scheduled quarterly meeting on March 3.
During the meeting, a petition from area farmers was presented by Tyler Hydrick, an Arkansas crop consultant. The petition sought changes to the current dicamba rule, Section XIII (B) of the Arkansas Rules on Pesticide Use. (bit.ly/3ruhhTE) After discussion of the petition, the board voted to initiate rulemaking and proposed a rule that, if adopted, would allow farmers and applicators to follow the federal label in the use of dicamba.
Sam Stuckey, State Plant Board secretary, made the motion to proceed with the vote.
“I think we should have been on the federal label for some time,” said Stuckey, who farms cotton, soybeans, rice and corn in northeast Arkansas and western Tennessee. “Other states have been able to make the federal label work, and I think our cutoff date has been overly restrictive for Arkansas farmers.”
When asked if the recent confirmation of glufosinate-resistant Palmer amaranth in two Arkansas counties had any sway on the board’s decision, Stuckey responded, “For my part, absolutely. We’re in a very high-pressure pigweed area, and right now dicamba is the best means of control.”
Changes far from final
The proposed changes are far from final. In accordance with the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act, the proposed rule will be open for public comment for 30 days. Amy Lyman, director of Marketing and Communications with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, said the comment period will not begin until the department receives approval from Gov. Asa Hutchinson to move forward with the rule amendment.
Following the public comment period, the board will review any comments received and determine if any changes should be adopted as a result of the comments. The rule will then go to the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Administrative Rules Subcommittee, with additional review and approval by the full Arkansas Legislative Council before becoming effective. It’s a process that could take months.
The May 25 cutoff will remain in effect until a new rule has received final approval.
A copy of the proposed rule and notice of the 30-day comment period and future Plant Board meetings will be available on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s website as they become available.