A CLOSER LOOK: 1st dicamba lawsuit rules in farmer’s favor

A Closer Look
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ARKANSAS (KNWA) — A farmer who filed a lawsuit against two companies that produce dicamba — a weed control herbicide — was awarded $15 million, and then some, by a jury in Missouri.

For 40 years, Bill Bader has been a peach farmer in southwest Missouri. He sued Bayer and BASF for damages he said was caused by dicamba drifting onto his trees. Over the weekend, February 15, a jury in U. S. District Court in Cape Girardeau awarded Bader $15 million in actual damages. An additional $265 million was awarded in punitive damages.

This is the first case in the U.S. to rule on the use of herbicides that are dicamba-based. There are more than 100 similar cases headed to courts in 2020.

Arkansas and Missouri had banned the use and sale of dicamba in July 2017, in part, because of what’s called “dicamba drift.” It’s an action that is caused when dicamba is sprayed, forms a gas, and wafts onto areas that were not intended to be sprayed. The ban was also created because of complaints that came in mainly from the Northwest Arkansas area.

In late March 2019, the Arkansas Agriculture Department’s State Plant Board (ASPB) approved an emergency rule for regulations on pesticide use. The emergency rule is called, “The Arkansas Regulations On Pesticide Use.”

The ASPB agency is responsible for investigating complaints, or allegations, made by citizens relating to chemical misuse. Inspectors must get to the site to determine if chemicals have been misused and collect data to support the accusations.

The rule has restrictions for dicamba use. The herbicide applications can only be applied for burndown from April 16 to May 25 and there are three forms of spray that can be used: Engenia, FeXapan, and Xtendimax. A half-mile buffer zone is required for non-dicamba crops when the chemical is sprayed and a one-mile buffer, in all directions from University and USDA research stations, certified organic crops and commercially grown specialty crops.

The ASPB states it did an emergency rule because “pesticides are valuable to the state’s agricultural production and to the protection of man and the environment from insects, rodents, weeds and other forms of life which may be pests; but it is essential to the public health and welfare that they be regulated to prevent adverse effects on human life and the environment.”

The emergency rule also states “the purpose of these regulations is to provide additional mechanisms, other than denying registration of a product in Arkansas,” to minimize the adverse effects of certain pesticides to:

  • 1. Plants, including forage plants, or adjacent or nearby lands;
  • 2. Wildlife in the adjoining or nearby areas;
  • 3. Fish and other aquatic life in waters in reasonable proximity to the area to be treated;
  • 4. Humans, animals, or beneficial insects

Dicamba is a selective herbicide in the chlorophenoxy family of chemicals. It comes in several salt formulations and an acid formulation. It is a common herbicide used in getting rid of weeds and woody plants.

— per Arkansas State Plant Board’s website

Scientists in Arkansas and other states say all formulas of dicamba, including new versions by Bayer and other companies, have a tendency in the summer heat and humidity to move off-target hours or days after application — known as dicamba drift, according to the ASPB’s website.

As for the recent lawsuit, BASF attorneys argued that Bader’s farm profits increased therefore how did the weed killer hurt his business? Bayer’s attorneys said Bader failed to prove that dicamba was the specific cause of the problem. Both agencies argued in court that the peach orchards were damaged by root fungus and harsh weather.

German drugmaker Bayer bought Monsanto in June 2018 for more than $60 billion. The company dropped the Monsanto name but kept its product names such as the weed killer Roundup which possibly contains carcinogens — something Monsanto denies. The agrochemical company was founded in 1901 and its home office was in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

SOME OF THE STATES WITH DICAMBA RESTRICTIONS AS OF 2018:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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