Bismarck, ND – States could lose control over how they regulate a volatile, yet very effective herbicide.
In recent years, farmers have started using dicamba on soybeans. Dicamba works great in soybean fields if you are working with dicamba-tolerant beans. Non-G-M-O soybeans can die from Dicamba.
Two years ago, hundreds of thousands of acres of crops were damaged in North Dakota from dicamba drifting off-site. The state issued new regulations and saw instant improvement. But now, the federal government might take that power away.
Steven Heger is busy working his fields in Underwood.
“Soybeans, corn, spring wheat,” he said. He uses a Dicamba-tolerant seed.
He’s watching the weather to know what to expect from weeds this year.
“Right now we’re dry. A few weeks ago we were wet. If we stay dry, weeds growing in soybeans is going to be an issue again,” he said.
If they do pop up, he has Dicamba.
“It helps yields tremendously by keeping the fields clean. That’s one of the biggest things we gotta do,” he said.
It caused a huge problem in 2017 when dicamba drifted off-site onto neighboring farms. The state recorded about 165,000 damaged acres due to Dicamba. That number dropped significantly in 2018; down to 24,000 acres damaged. That is in part because the state took matters into its own hands.
“Our state pesticide people do a great job. We got one of the best-run programs in the country,” Heger said.
North Dakota set even stricter guidelines for Dicamba than the federal government, setting a June 30th cut-off date among other things.
“They’re shutting us down two hours before sunset. 3 to 10 mile an hour winds. It makes for a pretty small window. I think that’s probably a little bit excessive but I understand why they’re doing it,” Heger said.
But just this spring, the EPA announced it is considering taking state control away when it comes to restricting pesticides. That worries Heger.
“Even if I don’t agree with them on everything with how they do things, I’d still rather have local control,” he said.
He says that’s because what North Dakota is doing is showing results.
“I’m fearful if it is all federal control, there is no one who we can talk to about this. No one will answer to us directly,” he said.
The E-P-A does not plan to make any changes this year. But it says it will get public input and consider changes for the 2020 season.