Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Missouri Department of Agriculture on Friday ordered a temporary end to the use and sales of products labeled for agricultural use that contain the herbicide dicamba, effective immediately.

Chris Chinn, Director of the Agriculture Department, said in a news release the department has received more than 130 complaints contending the chemical has drifted onto farm land and damaged crops. The drift has allegedly damaged thousands of acres of crops, with particular impact in southeast Missouri.

All on-farm applications of products containing dicamba must cease immediately and pesticide distributors and retailers must immediately stop selling the products, the department said. The order does not apply to homeowner or garden herbicides that contain dicamba.

“We want to protect farmers and their livelihoods. At the same time, my commitment to technology and innovation in agriculture is unwavering,” Chinn said. “That’s why I am asking the makers of the approved post-emergent products, researchers and farmers to work with us to determine how we can allow applications to resume this growing season, under certain agreed-upon conditions.”

Chinn said she realizes the time to apply the herbicide for this growing season is short, so she is hoping the groups can work together to find a quick solution.

The order for Xtendimax, Engenia and FeXapan herbicides will be lifted once a special local need label is developed and approved. For all older dicamba-containing products used for agriculture, the order will remain in effect until Dec. 1.

Dicamba has been used on farms for decades but it is being used with new technology after some crops, particularly soybean and cotton, were genetically altered to tolerate dicamba. Farmers have complained that illegal spraying of dicamba has drifted and damaged non-resistant crops. Soybeans are particularly sensitive to dicamba, but complaints have also involved cotton, peaches, tomatoes and melons.

Missouri Soybean Association President Matt McCrate said in a statement Friday that his group has heard a “steady stream” of frustrations from growers surrounding dicamba, with damage of up to 200,000 soybean acres apparently caused by the herbicide this growing season.

“The impact already seen across Missouri demands that all involved take steps to prevent additional damage and develop management solutions for this year and the years ahead,” he said.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said the organization fully supports the order issued Friday.

“There is much to be learned about the use of this technology, and a temporary pause in the use of dicamba will allow all parties to work toward a solution,” he said.

In March, Gov. Eric Greitens signed a law that increased fines for illegal use of herbicides that damage other farmers’ crops, partly in response to complaints of damage to crops from illegal dicamba use in 2015 and 2016. The law allows the Agriculture Department to fine anyone who damages another farmer’s crops, land or property with an improperly used herbicide.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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