Iowa State University weed scientists have released their own dicamba recommendations after the EPA announced on October 31 that the dicamba label would extend through the application season on 2020. Below, we’ll cover the basics of the EPA label extension, as well as the ISU recommendations. It’s not particularly surprising that the EPA’s dicamba rules are causing a lot of confusion- nearly everything about government is confusing these days. The EPA rules have been especially challenging for state regulators. They’re also complicating a lawsuit in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Read on to learn more about how the chaos is shaking out.
EPA’s Dicamba Rules
Tom J Bechman of Farm Progress covered the details of the EPA dicamba rules. Label extensions were granted for XtendiMax from Bayer, Engenia from BASF and FeXapan from DowDuPont. We covered the details of the EPA’s label extension for dicamba and added restrictions here.
The additional restrictions aren’t drastic. First, the application window has narrowed to one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset. Application is limited to 45 days after planting soybeans OR the R1 growth stage. Application is limited to 60 days after planting cotton OR midbloom.
Second, a restriction was made to training and certification. Just like this year, annual training will continue to be required for all applicators. But now, the products can only be purchased and applied by certified applicators. Previously, a person without certification could apply the product if they were working under the supervision of a certified applicator.
While there wasn’t a lot of change in dicamba rules from the EPA, individual states’ regulations could be a different story. Be sure to connect with your state extension office and other state specialists to determine the changes in your state- as they could be significant. Indiana, for example, required mandatory training for anyone applying dicamba in 2018. This year that training will not be required.
Emily Unglesbee of DTNPF says that many states are frustrated and confused about the EPA’s dicamba rules. In Arlington, Virginia during the annual meeting of the State FIFRA Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG), many state pesticide regulators confronted EPA representatives about the excessive numbers of dicamba injury complaints.
Last year, the EPA consulted with state regulators before releasing the new labels, but that didn’t happen this year. Leo Reed, the pesticide licensing manager for the Office of Indiana State Chemist said,
“The vagueness of some of the terminology on the labels is unfortunate.”
Dan Kenny, the herbicide branch chief for EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs responded.
“By the time we actually had a decision to propose, it was well into the end of October, and unfortunately we had pretty much run out of time…we were actually running against the deadline for when the registrations expired,” he said. “So unfortunately, we were not able to vet proposals with the states as we hoped we would.”
As a result, it’s been hard for states to know how to enforce parts of the labels. Many are still working to resolve the backlog of dicamba investigations from 2018. These investigations have been extremely costly. Reed states that his office spent $1.2 million investigating 141 dicamba complaints in 2018. Tim Creger is the manager of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s pesticide/fertilizer program and serves as a representative for EPA’s Region 7 states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska for SFIREG. Creger says that,
“I didn’t have that in my budget,” Creger told EPA. “… Now I’m looking at two more years of the same situation and I can’t afford that — I can’t afford it financially and I can’t afford it in staff time.”
ISU Releases Dicamba Recommendations
Just to add a little more confusion to the mix, let’s go over what Iowa State University weed scientists are recommending for dicamba spray applications. Ken Anderson of Brownfield Ag News reported from the Integrated Crop Management conference in Ames. As before, they continue to suggest only pre-emergence applications. ISU Extension weed scientist Bob Hartzler says,
“Those are made early in the spring when temperatures are cooler, and so there’s less likelihood of the volatility,” Hartzler says. “The problem with that and why nobody wants to go that route is it just destroys the value of the dicamba in managing waterhemp. That’s what 95 percent of the growers want out of the technology.”
Post-emergence applications should be done as early as possible.
“The current label allows up to R1. We’d like to see it done before the V3 stage,” he says. “That’s usually going to be cooler temperatures and plants outside of the field are going to be at a less susceptible stage. So I think it’s going to be a lot safer.”
Dicamba Battle in the Ninth Circuit
One might think that making fewer changes overall would keep things simple. But nothing is simple when it comes to controversial dicamba. Here’s how the EPA’s dicamba regulations are complicating a lawsuit in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, WA. Emily Unglesbee of DTNPF shares the story.
A lawsuit was first filed in 2017 against the EPA by the National Family Farm Coalition, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network North America. They argue that the EPA broke the law when it first registered XtendiMax, FeXapan and Engenia in 2016 for over-the-top use on X-tend soybeans and cotton crops. It’s alleged that the EPA ignored requirements from the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Argument from both sides was heard, and the judges retired to determine the ruling. Then, the EPA released their dicamba regulations.
Monsanto (Bayer) lawyers then filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“As a result of EPA’s issuance of the new, superseding 2018 Registration, the 2016 Registration that Petitioners challenge is no longer in force, and a court order vacating that registration would have no legal or practical effect,” the lawyers wrote in their motion, available via the court’s electronic case filing system. “The petition for review of the 2016 Registration is therefore moot, and this Court accordingly should dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction.”
They put in a big effort to present the EPA’s regulations as “new,” as opposed to an “extension.”
“EPA evaluated an extensive body of new scientific evidence, compiled a new administrative record, conducted new environmental analyses, imposed new conditions, and issued new decision documents justifying its determinations,” they wrote. “… Moreover, EPA’s new scientific determinations, the new studies and other new record materials, and the new conditions on use, address many of the concerns raised by Petitioners in this case regarding the 2016 Registration.”
Almost a couple of weeks later, the EPA filed a response in support of Monsanto’s motion to dismiss.
The National Family Farm Coalition also filed a response that day to deny Monsanto’s motion. They say that legal errors still remain. The EPA still hasn’t dealt with the Endangered Species Act Requirements, and they haven’t protected farmers from vapor drift and volatility. In addition, language used in the registration allude more to an “extension” of existing requirements as opposed to “new” regulations.
George Kimbrell, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, told DTN,
“If — as we argue — the 2016 and 2017 decisions were unlawful, then there is nothing for them to extend,” he said. “If the foundation is rotting, anything you build on top of it must go as well.”
They also argued that if the court sides with Monsanto, they still should not be required to file a new case.
“We asked that we should be allowed to amend this one, expedite the briefing and get a decision before March because we know when planting season begins again, so will dicamba spraying,” Kimbrell said.
A decision on the case is expected in the next couple of months, and whatever comes will have an impact on growers’ seed and herbicide purchases. It’s hard to know how to plan under these circumstances.
These are chaotic and confusing times for dicamba. There’ s so much information that growers need to know in order to stay on top of things. We’ll all be closely watching this case in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Farmers also of course, look to the EPA for guidelines. Farmers also must follow the regulations of states. In addition, academic institutions like ISU provide up-to-date guidelines and recommendations based on science. There are numerous factors to consider and regulations to follow.