Monsanto Fighting Arkansas Dicamba Ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Agrochemical giant Monsanto is fighting back against the state's possible dicamba ban.

The company has filed a petition with the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) challenging the credibility of state weed scientists Ford Baldwin and Jason Norsworthy.

The petition seeks to halt what Monsanto calls "an unwarranted and misinformed ban on dicamba," calling it a critical tool for growers—and to ensure that growers in Arkansas have access to a vital new weed-control tool next year. Growers in Arkansas and across the United States need access to low-volatility dicamba formulations, Monsanto says.

Weed Scientist Responds

On page 21 of the petition, Monsanto states, “Dr. Baldwin spoke at the first Task Force meeting in support of a statewide ban on dicamba herbicides in 2018.”

Speaking to Baldwin by phone, he denied making any such formal statement of support to the task force during that meeting and said he expected a retraction from Monsanto. 

 

We reached out to Monsanto following Baldwin’s comment, and we asked Monsanto to cite and provide evidence for the statement that Baldwin spoke in support of a ban during that meeting. Samuel Murphey emailed a response  for Monsanto saying:

"It is troubling that Dr. Baldwin is serving as an advisor to the Arkansas State Plant Board and hte task force while also being paid to act as a consultant for another pesticide company as well as an expert witness for plaintiffs in a dicamba lawsuit against Monsanto.

We had inquired about a transcript [from the meeting], but we’ve been told one was not made available.  Our petition relied on information provided to us by a person who was in attendance at the meeting who reported to us that Dr. Baldwin spoke in support of a ban in 2018.  

If Dr. Baldwin does not support a ban on over-the-top use of dicamba in 2018, we hope he will clarify that position."
 
Murphey referred us to a Sept. 6 article written by Baldwin, here, which recapped the task force decision and outlined his support for that decision. Murphey declined to identify the person who had provided the information regarding from the meeting or whether that individual was an employee of Monsanto. Murphey also declined to say whether Monsanto would retract the allegation. Murphey further confirmed that the allegations in the petition regarding Baldwin's statements to the task force relied solely on the person in attendance, who remains unidentified. 
 
Meeting Materials
 
We also requested audio files and transcripts from the meeting from the Arkansas Agriculture Department. Audio of the Question & Answer session, which was the only time advisory members addressed the entire Task Force according to the first meeting records, can be found here (time 1:40:00), as provided by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, which facilitated the task force meetings.

Norsworthy, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas, presented results of field tests that suggested greater volatility in the new dicamba formulations than originally anticipated. You can watch his presentation here.

A packet of information that summarized the Q&A from the first task force meeting for members, included both Baldwin and Norsworthy's comments (see page 6). You can find that here

It should be noted that the companies that have an interest in dicamba, including Monsanto, were allowed to address the Task Force, answer questions and provide various information for the Task Force's consideration. Their comments are also included in the packet linked above.

State Dicamba Action

The ASPB voted on June 23 to ban the sale and use of in-crop dicamba, with an exemption for pastureland. The decision came in a meeting to consider an emergency rule on the herbicide. That ban was approved by the governor, with a requirement that a task force ultimately be established.

The rule establishing the ban on the sale and use of dicamba in Arkansas for 120 days went into effect Tuesday, July 11.

In light of nearly 1,000 complaints alleging dicamba damage across nearly two dozen counties, a governor-directed task force met twice in August to consider data presented by University of Arkansas weed scientists, industry professionals’ input, and other factors. The task force ultimately made three preliminary recommendations that must be considered by the APSB:

  • Cut-off date for use of dicamba of April 15, for the 2018 season. Revisit this cut-off date for 2019 and beyond.

  • Fix the regulations as they are now concerning penalties for violators of dicamba misuse to remove the requirement for proof of damage. Misuse should constitute a violation.

  • Request more independent/university testing before new products come to market (seed and chemical). And – the entire “package” must be ready at once.

The ASPB’s Pesticide Committee is scheduled to meet on Sept. 12 in Jonesboro to consider the task force recommendations.

Click here for more information on the Monsanto website.

Click here for more on dicamba in Arkansas.


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