USDA produce industry committee recommends EPA suspend registration of drift-prone dicamba herbicides

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Peach farmer Bill Bader says dicamba damaged his 1,000-acre farm. Credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch

The USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee has recommended the suspension of dicamba registration to prevent produce crop harm resulting from off-target movement when the herbicide is applied to non-produce row crops.

The group asked that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue work with the FDA and EPA to address concerns about dicamba, a multi-action herbicide used by soybean and cotton growers to control invasive weeds.

[Editor’s note: The advisory committee develops “recommendations for submission to the Secretary of Agriculture on issues affecting the U.S. produce industry.”]

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Specifically, the committee asked federal agencies to recognize that dicamba will move off target, and to establish a “reasonable residue tolerance.” The recommendations included one-mile buffers between the application site and the closest sensitive, non-target plant.

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The group also recommended limiting dicamba application to periods of “more desirable circumstances,” like lower temperature and humidity, pre-plant and preseason, and other factors that would reduce the potential for the chemical moving off target.

Dicamba’s current registration expires in December. The committee recommended that the registration for certain dicamba products not be renewed until research shows that specialty crop producers will not be harmed by off-target movement. The committee also recommended that the USDA and EPA evaluate dicamba products and make a determination about their continued use in 2020 before the registration expires.

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