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Farmers Lose Access to Dicamba for Soybeans and Cotton after Arizona Court Case Ruling

On February 5, farmers experienced a loss to their crop production toolbox as Dicamba registration was vacated for soybeans and cotton by an Arizona District Court. What does this mean for farmers, including many of whom have already purchased seed and chemicals for the 2024 growing season?  

“In short, the ruling is effective immediately and means no over-the-top dicamba applications to soybeans or cotton in 2024,” said Mark McHargue, Nebraska Farm Bureau President.Farm Bureau has been meeting with the EPA regularly on this issue for the past several years, making sure they understand how important dicamba is as a tool for farmers to keep in their crop protection toolbox.”  

In 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their latest approval for Dicamba. This approval included new application restrictions to minimize offsite applications. The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety sued the EPA in an Arizona District Court in December of 2020 saying they did not take the potential for damage into enough consideration.  

The Nebraska Attorney General joined the lawsuit for the state of Nebraska, with plaintiffs emphasizing the need for these products with the increasing herbicide resistance. Prior to registration, the EPA had commented that the new restrictions on application would prevent enough of the harm that it was worthwhile to allow registration. The Arizona District Court says they should have done an analysis on how much economic damage could still be caused if the restrictions did not work, and focused on how damage due to Dicamba has continued despite the restrictions. 

The decision of the Arizona District Court vacates the EPA registration of Dicamba use over the top on soybeans and cotton. This ruling is effective immediately, meaning no Dicamba may be applied over the top of soybeans or cotton. Farm Bureau has been pushing EPA to minimize the detriment to farmers and ranchers, with one temporary solution being to allow use of Dicamba for the 2024 growing season.  

“To be frank, we have more questions than answers at this time. Immediately following the Arizona ruling, Farm Bureau engaged with the EPA pushing them to again allow farmers to utilize dicamba during this growing season similar to what they did in 2020. At this time, EPA has yet to make a decision, but we anticipate an announcement soon,” said McHargue. 

As a final note, the court emphasized how important it was for the EPA to fully consider public comments before making decisions under the Administrative Procedure Act. This highlights how important it is for farmers and ranchers to submit their input when the EPA has comments open for a decision. As always, we encourage NEFB members to speak up and ensure the EPA does not make decisions detrimental to agriculture. 

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