Doubtless, many people spent the better part of their New Year’s celebration watching the clock, waiting for midnight to arrive. But for the agricultural industry, the clock-watching continues – at least until November 9, 2018, rolls around. If things haven’t improved, this could be midnight for dicamba-resistant crops in America.
Unless you’ve spent virtually all of 2017 ignoring the news, you are likely aware that the introduction of dicamba-resistant crops last year didn’t go exactly as planned. By the time 2017 ended, there were more than 2,000 complaints from growers that dicamba had drifted into their fields from neighboring ones, damaging crops. This has led to dozens of lawsuits and insurance claims (many denied) and hundreds of cases of finger-pointing as to who (or what) is to blame.
The clock is now ticking down to November 9, when dicamba product labels are set to expire. According to Dr. Kevin Bradley, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri, the EPA deliberately granted a shorter approval window for dicamba products because of worries that problems could occur. “Concerns about drift led to the U.S. EPA to issue time-limiting registrations for the auxin herbicide dicamba for two years,” said Bradley, speaking at an industry meeting in January 2017. “Unless growers show they can use these herbicides as labeled, the registrations could easily be revoked.”
Since this time, the ag industry has seen many states such as Arkansas and Minnesota place restrictions on how long into the 2018 growing season dicamba products can be applied (some of which are being challenged in court). In addition, any applicator planning to work with dicamba in 2018 will need to undergo certified training with their states to do so.
Will any of these efforts make a difference in 2018? As always, time will tell. However, I’m sure plenty of people in the ag industry already have November 9 circled on their calendars, despite the fact that it’s only the first week of January.