Arkansas Dicamba Task Force

September 11, 2017 · 5:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Throughout the summer of 2017, the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) received a record-breaking number of complaints alleging misuse and off-target effects from the herbicide dicamba. In response to such an unprecedented number of complaints, ASPB voted to enact an emergency rule that would ban the sale and use of the herbicide dicamba in the state for 120 days. The emergency rule was reviewed by the Governor and the legislature before becoming effective on July 11, 2017.

On August 1, 2017, a separate law and corresponding rules that allowed for increased civil penalties for “egregious violations” of dicamba use also went into effect. Recognizing the need for certainty in the 2018 growing season and beyond, as well as the approaching October and November planning and purchasing period for Arkansas farmers, Gov. Hutchinson called upon ASPB and the Arkansas Agriculture Department to create a task force charged with reviewing dicamba technology, examining current problems with its use and application, and making long-term recommendations for the future.

An 18-member task force representing a cross-section of those most affected by the issues surrounding dicamba use was convened. The task force was brought to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute to undergo a facilitated, dialogue-driven decision-making process. Institute facilitators served as impartial, independent mediators, guiding the task force through an examination of all sides of the issue, not only from the task force members themselves, but also from advisory members representing academic researchers and scientists as well as researchers from dicamba product manufacturers and Arkansas Agriculture Department conveners.

On the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2017, after two meetings, the dicamba task force came to a consensus agreement on the following recommendations around dicamba and its use in Arkansas:

• A cutoff date for the in-crop use of dicamba in Arkansas of April 15, 2018, and the need to revisit the issue for the 2019 growing season after more data and research has been collected and reviewed.

• Amend the current law (Arkansas Code § 2-16-203) allowing there to be “egregious violations” subject to enhanced penalties without the need to prove “significant off-target crop damage.”

• Increased independent and university testing of new products before they come to market, with an additional stipulation that the entire technology package (seeds and herbicide) be ready for market at the same time.