IFB: Dicamba decision prompts confusion, fear

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Friday expressing concerns about a recent court ruling vacating three dicamba herbicide registrations.

“The court decision has caused tremendous confusion and fear among our over 74,000 farmer members across the state,” Guebert said. “The chaos comes at a time when our members are planting soybeans and intending to apply the herbicide today, tomorrow and in the coming weeks. In the backdrop of this planting season, our farmers are dealing with the ongoing adversities related to unstable markets and impacts from COVID-19. The court’s decision adds insult to injury, and simply put, the loss of these products would create irreparable financial damage to our farmer members who chose to invest in the technology.”

IFB is encouraging EPA to look at two options in hopes of avoiding a disruption of Illinois farmers’ planting and growing seasons.

“We urge EPA to consider litigation and administrative remedies that allow us to avoid sudden disruption to our 2020 growing season,” said Guebert. “Specifically, with regard to administrative remedies, we request that EPA issue an Existing Stocks order to provide appropriate guidance to farmers and applicators, and we also request a Section 18 Emergency Use for these products for Illinois farmers. We believe exploring these options would allow use of these products that farmers possess or are already in the supply chain for the 2020 growing season.”

As of noon Friday, IFB was working with EPA, the registrants, Illinois congressional delegates, American Farm Bureau Federation, other state Farm Bureaus, Illinois Department of Agriculture and other Illinois agriculture groups on this issue.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated three U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dicamba herbicide registrations as of June 3. The herbicides include Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s DuPont FeXapan.

In October 2018, the EPA approved conditional registrations for Xtendimax, Engenia and FeXapan for an additional two years.

In response, the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North American challenged EPA’s October 2018 decision. The petitioners argued that EPA’s decision violated both the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Endangered Species Act.

Upon review, the court found that EPA’s conditional new use registrations of the three herbicides violate FIFRA. The court opinion stated: “…we hold that the EPA substantially understated risks that it acknowledged and failed entirely to acknowledge other risks.”

Specifically, the court found EPA understated the acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton planted in 2018 and did not account for the widespread damage dicamba had caused. In addition, the court found EPA did not acknowledge that over-the-top labels were difficult for users to follow nor considered the anti-competitive economic effects the registrations have had in the soybean and cotton industries.