US court bans over-the-top Dicamba use

The US Farm Journal reports that a federal court in Arizona has vacated EPA’s 2020 registrations for dicamba products to be used in over-the-top applications. This effectively means the agricultural community will be unable to apply XtendiMax (Bayer), Enginia (BASF), and Tavium (Syngenta) for the upcoming 2024 growing season, until the EPA can re-review the matter.

In reviewing the case, the court found that EPA to be in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) when it re-authorised dicamba back in 2020. “Being aware of the practical effects’ of vacatur and difficulties these growers may have in finding effective and legal herbicides to protect dicamba-tolerant crops due to vacatur, the court nevertheless found the seriousness of the agency error, including in part its failure to assess risks and costs for non-users of over-the-top dicamba compelled vacatur,” said the court in its ruling.

Naturally, the companies that produce dicamba brands were disappointed in the ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the ruling against the EPA’s registration decision, and we are assessing our next steps,” wrote Bayer in a statement released to the press. “We also await direction from the EPA on important actions it may take in response to this ruling.”

In actuality, this marks the second time dicamba’s approval from EPA has been successfully challenged and vacated in court. Back in mid-2020, the agency’s original authorisation for the herbicide was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. By the end of October 2020, however, the EPA was successful in re-authorising dicamba for use. Still, this decision did lead to one manufacturer, Corteva, discontinuing the production of its dicamba brand, FeXapan.

Whether or not EPA can react quickly enough to once again re-authorise dicamba for over-the-top use for the 2024 growing season remains an open question at this time. According to industry sources, dicamba-tolerant soybean represented approximately 20 per cent of all soybean cropping system sales during 2023. Growers may now have to consider alternatives such as Roundup Ready or Enlist instead.

The National Cotton Council
“The National Cotton Council is extremely disappointed in a ruling by the Arizona Federal court that vacates the label for over-the-top use of dicamba products for the 2024 crop. The impacts of this ruling will be felt across the Cotton Belt as dicamba-tolerant varieties account for more than 75 per cent of U.S. cotton acres.

“The ruling comes at an especially problematic time of the year as many producers have already made their cropping decisions, secured seed, and are doing preparatory field work. The timing of this ruling also will not allow for the production of seed with alternative herbicide technology in time for 2024 planting. Without widely available alternatives, losing the foundational herbicides in the dicamba-tolerant weed control system will put millions of acres in jeopardy of reduced production. The loss of over-the-top dicamba products exacerbates an already difficult economic situation with current prices below the costs of production.

“We urge EPA to immediately appeal the ruling. If allowed to stand, the court’s decision is another blow that will stifle the development and adoption of new technologies that not only increase productivity but bring forth environmental benefits such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we urge EPA to move quickly in exploring all available options to mitigate the economic damage that will result if growers do not have access to this critical crop protection product.”


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