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The state's ban on in-crop use of dicamba remains in effect after the state Plant Board on Tuesday denied a request by a group of farmers to lift the ban until June 25.

The board, on a voice vote, unanimously rejected the farmers' formal petition after an hour of discussion during a special meeting attended by about 70 people, mostly farmers. The board was required by law to consider the petition.

Members said the farmers had provided no new information that would make them change their minds on an issue studied throughout last summer and fall. The ban on in-crop use of dicamba took effect April 16 and runs through Oct. 31.

Farmers wanting to use the product on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton said their fields are being overrun by pigweed, which is now resistant to other herbicides.

The ban, which also was approved by the governor and reviewed by lawmakers, was implemented after the Plant Board received nearly 1,000 complaints of crop damage last year to soybeans not tolerant of the herbicide and to other crops, vegetables, backyard gardens and ornamental shrubs and trees.

A wet, cool April delayed planting, and a hot, dry May eliminated the effectiveness of other herbicides, said Kyle Stoner, a Helena-West Helena lawyer for the farmers seeking the reprieve. "We have fields where weeds are as tall as the beans and will grow 2 inches a day, eventually choking out the beans," Stoner said.

Stoner led one of four legal efforts in circuit courts across the state in April to have the ban lifted just as it was taking effect. Three circuit judges -- in Clay, Phillips and Mississippi counties -- granted temporary restraining orders in April against the ban, all later set aside by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

While other states have approved restrictions on spraying the herbicide, Arkansas has the only ban, with an exemption for use on pastures, rangeland and around the home.

Cal McCastlain, a Little Rock lawyer representing farmers who support the ban, said nothing presented by the farmers in their petition showed that even newer formulations of dicamba were less prone to off-target movement this year than last.

"Nothing has been presented today to change that," McCastlain said. "There's no assurance that [other crops] won't be damaged."

Jerry Hyde, a board member from Paragould who represents the pest-management industry, said he sympathized with the farmers but doubted whether such a change could be implemented in time. A board decision to lift the ban temporarily also would require review by the governor, the executive subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, and the full council, he said.

Business on 06/06/2018

Print Headline: Farmers lose bid to lift dicamba ban

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