LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A major agribusiness company asked an Arkansas judge Friday to halt the state’s plan to ban an herbicide that’s drawn complaints from farmers across several states who say the weed killer has drifted onto their fields and caused widespread damage.
Monsanto asked a Pulaski County judge to strike down the rule approved by the state Plant Board earlier this month that would prohibit the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31. The ban is expected to go before a legislative panel next month, but the Missouri-based company said action is needed now because farmers are already buying their products for next year’s growing season.
“The ban severely curtails Monsanto’s ability to sell its new dicamba-tolerant seed and low-volatility dicamba herbicide within the state, and every day the ban remains in place costs Monsanto sales and customers,” the company said in its filing.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Dicamba has been around for decades, but problems arose over the past couple of years as farmers began to use it on soybean and cotton fields where they planted new seeds engineered to be resistant to the herbicide. Because it can easily evaporate after being applied, the chemical sometimes settles on neighboring fields. The state earlier this year approved a temporary ban on the herbicide’s sale and use, and has received nearly 1,000 complaints about dicamba this year.
The request to halt next year’s ban was added to a lawsuit Monsanto filed last month over the board’s decision in 2016 to prohibit the use of dicamba.
In its amended lawsuit filed Friday, the company argued the Plant Board exceeded its authority by banning dicamba and did not consider the financial impact on the state’s farmers. Monsanto said it would ask the court to move quickly on its complaint, and hoped the board would join in that request.
“This is all about having the newest technology available to growers so they can choose what products they wish to use to combat those difficult-to-control weeds,” said Scott Partridge, the company’s vice president of global strategy. “There’s no reason to delay.”
The company also challenged the makeup of the 18-member board, arguing a state law that gives private groups such as the state Seed Growers Association power to appoint members violates Arkansas’ constitution.
Farmers have also complained about dicamba causing damage to their crops in other states, including Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. The Environmental Protection Agency last month announced a deal with Monsanto and two other makers of dicamba herbicides, BASF and DuPont, for new voluntary restrictions on the weed killer’s use.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.