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Timing of Dicamba ruling may cause issues for 2024 planting
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Most people within the farm chemical industry anticipated that a federal court would again restrict the over-the-top (post-emergence) usage of the popular but polarizing herbicide dicamba on soybeans, as occurred in 2020. But when Arizona District Court Judge David Bury announced on Feb. 7, that approval for dicamba had been lifted going into the 2024 planting season, the timing of the registration revocation still caught many in the Midwest by surprise. 
“Farmers have already made their decisions about what varieties of cotton and soybean seed they want to plant in 2024, and retailers are already stocking not only the seed but also the herbicides these growers will need for their systems,” said Darren Coppock, CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association, in response to the revocation of Bayer’s XtendiMax, BASF’s Enginia and Syngenta’s Tavium, which are dicamba-based herbicides.
In his ruling, Bury said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) understated the risks to human health and the environment. American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall, a third-generation farmer from Georgia, pushed back on the judge’s decision on the basis of its timing. “Without these products, not only are these substantial investments at risk, but farmers do not know how they will protect their crops,” said Duvall in a letter to the EPA. 
“The court has vacated the label for over the top use on soybeans and cotton,” said Kevin “KJ” Johnson, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA). “You can still use dicamba as a burn-down (pre-plant) product, and on February 13 the EPA said that you can still use anything that is in the pipeline, such as with a retailer or in the farmer’s hands. You can still spray that product for the 2024 season.”
IFCA leaders have been in contact with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and have learned that the label and usage instructions for dicamba sold in 2024 will remain the same as it was for 2023 products. A June 12 cutoff date and 85 degree threshold for applications will stay in effect. 
Farm groups, including the chemical industry, are busy petitioning EPA to appeal the court’s decision. What is unclear is whether the registrants — Bayer, BASF and Syngenta — have followed suit in requesting the EPA appeal the decision in court, Johnson told Farm World. 
“I think if there is no pressure from the registrants, then EPA will be willing to live with the consequences. EPA got sued because of this and not the registrants, so it will ultimately be EPA’s decision to appeal or not,” he said.
The IFCA director said there was little notice that the federal judge’s decision would be handed down in early February, though the action really didn’t surprise him. “With several lawsuits related to dicamba out there, it was a reality that a decision would be coming. But unless you’re an attorney for one of the chemical companies you probably had no idea when this (decision) would drop,” Johnson said. 
Johnson warned that the same environmental groups that brought suit against EPA in the Arizona court may file a separate lawsuit seeking to rescind the agency’s decision to allow existing dicamba products in the pipeline to be utilized. 
If the ruling remains permanent, registrants will still be allowed to sell dicamba products to farmers in 2025 and beyond, albeit with limited applications. “You can still use that product as a burn down and you can still use it in corn, in all applications. As it’s written today, in 2025 you will still be able to use dicamba on soybeans but not as a post-emergence application,” said Johnson. 
In a February 23 article on farmdoc.com, University of Illinois weed scientist Aaron Hager confirmed that the “action by EPA will allow Illinois weed management practitioners to use existing stocks of XtendiMax, Engenia, and Tavium consistent with the previously approved labeling (including training requirements, record keeping requirements, consultation with Bulletins Live! Two, etc.) for the products. Use of existing stocks also will be governed by the additional application restrictions imposed by the state of Illinois for use during the 2023 growing season.”
The EPA order for use of existing dicamba stocks can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2024-02/dicamba-notice-existing-stocks-order_02142024.pdf. 

2/27/2024