A public hearing on proposed dicamba regulations on Feb. 20 looks like it will be a lively one based on the number of comments the Arkansas Agriculture Department has received so far.
Since opening up the comment process in early January, Bob Midles, the director of marketing and communications for the agriculture department, says they have “received approximately 375 comments through the online submission process.”
Comment submission started on Jan. 7 and will continue through Feb. 5.
Those 375 comments came in the first two weeks and there’s more but, “we have not tabulated submissions received by mail or email,” Midles says.
The hearing will start at 9 a.m., at the Embassy Suites, 11301 Financial Centre Parkway, Little Rock. Comments can also be made in person at the public hearing.
Midles says, since pre-registration isn’t needed for a public hearing, “we don’t have any expectation on the size of crowd” that will be there.
Dicamba has been a hot topic in Arkansas, and across the Midwest where soybeans are grown. The herbicide also has some use for cotton farmers as well.
Dicamba usage grew in 2016 and controversy soon bloomed. The herbicide, when used in conjunction with dicamba-resistant soybeans, killed unwanted weeds, most notably pigweed.
The problem was that the spray drifted into other fields and killed those crops that weren’t resistant to the herbicide.
It was dicamba drift that led to the murder of Monette farmer Mike Wallace, after an altercation with Allan Jones, of Arbyrd, Mo. Jones was later found guilty of homicide and sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The state’s Plant Board, approved draft regulations for dicamba use at its Dec. 6 meeting and those regulations will be the ones heard at the public hearing.
These rules would regulate when dicamba could be used. For dicamba usage taking place between April 16 and May 20, it will be subject to a one-mile buffer zone around research stations, organic crops, specialty crops, non-tolerant dicamba crops and other sensitive crops and will also include a restriction on mixing glyphosate with dicamba.
The regulations would also limit dicamba use between May 21 through Oct. 31.
Midles laid out a timeline dicamba regulation after the public hearing.
“After considering all public comments, the Arkansas State Plant board will vote on the proposed regulation,” Midles says. “If passed, the Plant Board submits the approved rule to the Joint Budget Committee’s Administrative Rule and Regulation Review Subcommittee for review.”
Midles also notes that, “If the proposed regulation is not approved by the Plant Board, the current rule on dicamba use in the state is still in effect.”
Comments can still be mailed to: Attn: Pesticide Division, Arkansas State Plant Board, P.O. Box 1069, Little Rock, AR 72203 or made online at www.agriculture.arkansas.gov.