Dicamba is a powerful weed killer that has drifted onto organic farms, grapevines and gardens, wiping out entire crops. Several formulas of this controversial weed killer, which was the subject of a KELOLAND News investigation in 2018, can no longer be sold or used in South Dakota. Last week a federal court overturned the EPA’s approval of popular Dicamba-based herbicides.
Once the herbicide Dicamba becomes vapor it can linger for days and can spread for miles and take out entire crops.
The same companies that make the herbicide also offer a genetically modified soybean seed that is Dicamba resistant and more farmers have planted them because of the risk.
Now with 9th Circuit Court’s ruling, farmers who planted Dicamba beans are trying to figure out what’s next.
Little Shire Farm is a small community producer who testified in the trial to stop the sale and use of Dicamba.
John Zuhlke says he’s experienced Dicamba drift multiple times over the last three growing seasons.
“And we got completely wiped out. We had to stop production in August. All of our CSA shares, community-supported agriculture shares-gone; farmers markets–gone,” Zuhlke said.
He’s pleased with the court’s ruling.
“The EPA approved a product that wasn’t tested fully and that states went along right with them,” Zuhlke said.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture is suspending all sales and application of three products until further guidance is provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The ruling I have no problems with, the timing of the ruling is really lousy. If the court would have ruled, okay after this season, it’s gone, fine,” SDSU Extension Weed Science Coordinator, Paul Johnson said.
That’s because farmers already have Dicamba beans in the field and have purchased the herbicide.
“We’re ready to spray it. Right now the weather is keeping us from doing it. Theoretically, South Dakota is telling us not to too. But until EPA really says not to—and we’re waiting, ” Kevin Scott of the American Soybean Association, said.
“My real big concern is now you give them no options. They can still go and buy the generic Dicamba—it’s illegal to use–but if you’re a farmer out there and you’re going to lose a thousand acres of beans, are you going to gamble you’re not going to get caught using something illegally? Or are you just going to lose your crop and maybe lose your farm?”Paul Johnson, SDSU Extension Weed Science Coordinator
Zuhlke is hoping this latest ruling leads to more cooperation among farmers.
“And the court cases like this that we win, these are just little battles leading up to hopefully a major change in how we produce food in our nation, more sustainably,” Zuhlke said.
There is one Dicamba product still available that was not included in the lawsuit, so it’s still legal to use, but not always readily available. and more expensive.
Some states are telling soybean farmers it’s okay to keep using Dicamba for now. They include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan and Iowa.
Dicamba provided KELOLAND News this release Monday evening: