On June 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled to vacate registrations of three dicamba herbicides. The 56-page opinion held the Trump administration’s 2018 registration of that pesticide and related ones to be unlawful, and disallowed it. Over 25 million pounds of the dicamba was set to be sprayed on roughly 60 million acres of resistant soybeans and cotton this summer using the now-unlawful pesticides.
There will certainly be legal wrangling ahead, but there could be real consequences for weed control this summer if the ruling stands, said University of Illinois weed scientist Aaron Hager to DTN.
“Given that there are many thousands, if not millions, of Xtend acres that have not been treated yet, if this label is fully vacated right now and there is no appeal and stay from the courts, farmers will have to scramble to come up with alternative solutions,” Hagar told DTN.
The case involved three formulations of the pesticide dicamba — Bayer’s XtendiMax, Corteva’s FeXapan, and BASF’s Engenia — that EPA first registered for the 2017 season for “new uses” on genetically-engineered, dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton from Monsanto (now owned by Bayer). Syngenta’s Tavium dicamba herbicide does not appear to be included in the ruling. Though introduced in the 1960s, after being approved for widespread use on resistant crops, farmers reported thousands of dicamba drift episodes causing damage to many acres of soybeans as well as vegetables, fruit trees, gardens, and residential trees since 2017.
“Today’s decision is a massive win for farmers and the environment,” said George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, lead counsel in the case. “It is good to be reminded that corporations like Monsanto and the Trump Administration cannot escape the rule of law, particularly at a time of crisis like this. Their day of reckoning has arrived.”
In ruling the pesticide approval unlawful, the opinion cited “enormous and unprecedented damage” caused by dicamba in the last few years, damage that has “torn apart the social fabric of many farming communities.”
“For the thousands of farmers whose fields were damaged or destroyed by dicamba drift despite our warnings, the National Family Farm Coalition is pleased with today’s ruling,” said National Family Farm Coalition president Jim Goodman, who is also a retired dairy farmer.
The court found that EPA “refused to estimate the amount of dicamba damage” by characterizing it as “potential” and “alleged,” when in fact the record showed that “dicamba had caused substantial and undisputed damage.”
Bayer plans to fight the ruling.
“We strongly disagree with the ruling and are assessing our options,” a company statement emailed to DTN said. “If the ruling stands, we will work quickly to minimize any impact on our customers this season. Our top priority is making sure our customers have the support they need to have a successful season.”