Dickcissel
Dickcissel
Advocacy

Dicamba Danger

Birds and pollinators are at risk
Dickcissels breed in agricultural fields. Photo: Matt Stephenson
Dickcissels breed in agricultural fields. Photo: Matt Stephenson
Advocacy

Dicamba Danger

Birds and pollinators are at risk

Audubon believes that working lands can work for birds and people. But the increasing use of dicamba will put birds at risk in our agricultural landscape. Dicamba is an herbicide, the use of which is skyrocketing because Monsanto is pushing its soybean and cotton varieties that have been genetically modified to be resistant. Dicamba's volatility means it can do damage to non-GMO crops and native plants far beyond where applied. The Arkansas State Plant Board messed up big time when they approved extending dicamba use through May 25. They ignored the science, ignored public input, and didn't follow proper procedure.

TAKE ACTION!

Sign up to volunteer for Audubon's community science project to document possible dicamba damage to vegetation on public lands so we gain a better understanding of the geographic range, extent, and severity of symptoms. Monitoring is needed now through the end of August. The focus is on towns and state and federal lands in east AR counties between Crowley's Ridge and the Mississippi River, but reports will be accepted from private lands by the landowner and anywhere that soybean or cotton are grown. Instructions will be provided after registering. You can also support this campaign by making a donation.

Also report damage to your own property by calling the Arkansas Plant Board at 501-225-1598. They will send an inspector if you wish.

BACKGROUND

After receiving 1,300 complaints about damage to crops, trees, and more, the Plant Board instituted an emergency ban on the growing season use of dicamba. In 2017, Governor Hutchinson's convened an 18-member task force representing a cross-section of those most affected by the issues surrounding dicamba use. After examining all sides of the issue and hearing from a variety of experts and stakeholders, the task force came to a consensus that the cutoff date for the in-crop use of dicamba in Arkansas should be April 15. They decided this issue should be revisited for the 2019 growing season after more research has been done.

Research conducted by the University of Arkansas shows that the new dicamba formulations are volatile—the product can move off target in all directions, damaging 1.5-times more acres than are treated. The high temperatures and humidity we experience in Arkansas’ warmer months can dramatically increase volatility and thus collateral damage. Damage has already been documented to non-resistant crops, honeybee production, nearby trees, duck food, and native plants and pollinators. In a landscape full of GMO crops, the build-up of volatile dicamba could be enough to damage our state natural areas, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, family farms, and the wildlife they harbor.

Despite the scientific evidence, the Arkansas State Plant Board voted on December 6, 2018, to extend the cutoff date and allow dicamba use to May 21. Governor Hutchinson approved their proposal. This started a 30-day public comment period, which closed Feb. 5. At a public hearing on February 20, to our shock and dismay, the Plant Board voted to advance the cutoff date even further into the growing season, to May 25, and to cut back buffer widths and make other changes that were not in the original proposal the public commented on. Following that Audubon and our advocates contacted legislators who review state agency rule changes. We made the case the Plant Board did not follow proper procedures nor their mission. Despite tough questioning of Plant Board staff, approval was granted and the rule change became law. Thank you to everyone who contacted the Plant Board, Governor, and legislators. We fought the good fight, but we're not through yet.

Hear more of the story in this Us & Them podcast.

Dickcissels breed in agricultural fields. Photo: Matt Stephenson

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