Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Friday (June 30) that he would send two controversial rules involving dicamba approved by the State Plant Board to the Arkansas Legislative Council for final review. In doing so, the governor has asked for a task force to further study the pesticide and its application.
The two dicamba rules – the “Ban on the Sale and Use of Dicamba” and “Pesticide Enforcement Response Regulation” – were approved last Friday by state regulators and forwarded to the governor.
The ban comes after hundreds of damage complaints were filed, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research Extension. Engenia is the only dicamba herbicide permitted in Arkansas for row crop production past April 15 and it can be used with dicamba tolerant crops. Soybeans without the tolerance, peanuts and some fruit and garden crops are highly sensitive to dicamba. The Plant Board has been charged by Hutchinson and a new state law to assess penalties of greater than $1,000 but not more than $25,000 for violations of dicamba rules that result in significant crop damage.
The governor said that he would submit the “Ban on the Sale and Use of Dicamba” proposal to the Legislative Council for review. He also instructed the Plant Board and the Department of Agriculture to create a task force to review dicamba technology, to investigate its use and to develop a long-term solution for Arkansas.
Hutchinson also announced that he has approved the promulgation of a proposal titled “Pesticide Enforcement Response Regulation.” The Plant Board presented it to the governor as both an emergency rule and a regularly proposed rule, which will allow it to remain in effect beyond the 120-day period of the emergency rule.
The proposal is in response to Act 778 of 2017, which was an amendment to the Arkansas Plant Act of 1917. Act 778 does not take effect until August 1, 2017. However, Gov. Hutchinson’s decision to promulgate the emergency rule will authorize the Plant Board to act quickly, provided the Legislative Council approves the rules, according to his office. The soonest legislative oversight might be considered is at a meeting scheduled for July 21, 2017.
Gov. Hutchinson addressed the subject while taping an interview for Sunday’s edition of Talk Business & Politics. He said:
“It was one of those difficult issues for the Plant Board, as well as for anyone who has engaged in it, the farmers are in a terrible position because you’ve got a technology that is not functioning, or is not being applied the way it’s designed and is causing great loss out there. The Plant Board recommended a ban on it, I have a lot of confidence in the Plant Board, they’re farmers, they’re people that make their livelihood here, they care about it, they make that recommendation. I am going to accept that and refer it over the legislature that will have to approve it. And it is an urgent matter.
“The other thing, though, that I asked Director Walker [Plant Board] and Secretary Ward [Arkansas Agriculture Department] to do is to create a task force to really get a better handle on this. The experts looking ahead to the future, because dicamba technology is being used successfully in other states. There’s many farmers that want that technology. It’s not working right now the way it should in Arkansas. We’ve got to figure out why and what the future is.”
You can catch Gov. Hutchinson’s full interview Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KATV Channel 7 in Central Arkansas; 10 a.m. on KAIT-NBC in Northeast Arkansas; and 10:30 a.m. on KFSM Channel 5 in Northwest Arkansas/Fort Smith.