U.S Arkansas' governor gave initial approval to temporarily banning the use and sale of herbicide dicamba that's prompted hundreds of complaints and a federal lawsuit claiming it's caused widespread damage.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson forwarded the 120-day ban on dicamba to a legislative panel, which must also approve the restriction before it can take effect. The Plant Board approved the emergency rule last week. Dicamba is a relatively inexpensive weed killer but it can drift and damage nearby row crops, such as soybeans and cotton, in addition to fruit and vegetable farms and ornamental trees.
Hutchinson said he was concerned that more limited options weren't fully debated, but said he believed the number of complaints over the herbicide's use warranted emergency action. He said he wants a task force formed to look at dicamba, problems with its application, and longer term recommendations. The Plant Board has received more than 500 complaints in 21 counties about dicamba use so far this year.
"This debate will continue into future planting seasons and Arkansas needs a long-term solution," Hutchinson wrote in a letter to the heads of the Plant Board and the Agriculture Department.
Hutchinson also approved allowing the Plant Board to assess civil penalties of up to $25,000 for egregious violations, a rule that will take effect Aug. 1. The board can currently only assess up to $1,000 fines for violations.
A group of farmers filed a class-action lawsuit in June against the makers of the herbicide over damage to their crops. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for damage to crops, fruits and trees that weren't dicamba-resistant.
BASF, which makes the only dicamba herbicide that's been approved for use in Arkansas, criticized the ban and said it would deprive farmers of a key tool for protecting their crops from weeds in the middle of the growing season.
"Eliminating dicamba as a weed control option for Arkansas farmers is not the answer," the company said in a statement. "Farmers deserve access to effective crop protection products to help increase yields and profitability."