Farmers Continue Struggles with Dicamba

Aug 17, 2018  | 3 min  | Ep4352

The agribusiness giant also faces dozens of lawsuits related to its dicamba herbicide. In 2017, drift during application damaged more than 3.6 million acres of soybeans and other crops in 25 states.

In 2018, damage from the herbicide continues to be seen across farm country. The issue has hit home for one southern farmer.

Colleen Bradford Krantz has more.

Joe Gardner immediately knew something had gone wrong when he walked into one of his North Carolina tobacco fields last month.

The unnatural cupping on the leaves was similar to curling he had seen last summer, after which he received a settlement for crop damage due to suspected dicamba exposure. But, this time, almost 100 acres - nearly a third of his tobacco crop - showed signs of exposure.

Joe Gardner, Gardner Farm, Macclesfield, North Carolina: “When I saw it that Monday – that Monday night – I couldn’t hardly sleep a wink not knowing what I was going to lose if I couldn’t sell it.”

Gardner already knew that no tobacco buyers would accept leaves from a crop with signs of dicamba exposure. His federal crop insurance would only cover losses from natural occurrences. The field of tobacco - typically valued at $4,000 to $6,000 an acre - would likely be a complete loss.

Joe Gardner, Gardner Farm, Macclesfield, North Carolina: “If I can’t settle, it’ll break me – probably somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000. No need for me to keep investing my time in something I can’t get rid of.”

A visit from North Carolina Cooperative Extension agents did little to allay his fears. They told Gardner - and confirmed to Market to Market - the damage was consistent with dicamba exposure.

New formulations of the weed-killer dicamba, approved in 2016 by the federal government for post-emergent use on genetically engineered soybeans and cotton, have relatively narrow application guidelines. Farmers in multiple states have reported damage to their crops both this summer and last after neighbors applied the herbicide.

Gardner called the owner of an adjacent soybean field, who confirmed a commercial applicator had recently applied dicamba. North Carolina Extension experts suspect the applicator failed to comply with required minimum distance between fields.

Several Midwestern states have tightened rules for dicamba application. The Environmental Protection Agency toughened labeling requirements in October, and the agency has said it may announce more changes after the 2018 growing season.

By Colleen Bradford Krantz, colleen.krantz@iptv.org

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