The herbicide dicamba is sparking a civil war in farm country

In November 2018, FERN, in partnership with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, published Liza Gross’s story of how the Environmental Protection Agency ignored decades of independent science in deciding to approve new and expanded uses of the weedkiller dicamba on soybeans. Now we have the next installment of our dicamba story, a radio version produced by Reveal and reported by Trey Kay and Loretta Williams of the podcast Us & Them. Where Liza’s story laid out the case against the EPA, Trey and Loretta show us how the weedkiller has divided farm communities in Arkansas—and how that division is likely to only get worse as the 2019 growing season unfolds.

The root of the conflict stems from  dicamba’s ability to drift off-target and damage crops and other plants. When it approved the herbicide, EPA had ignored science that warned of such an outcome. In 2017-18, dicamba drift was responsible for damage to an estimated 5 million acres of soybeans in 24 states, and an untold number of specialty crops and wild plants. It was an agricultural disaster that could have been averted, and one that is ongoing, in the courts and in the fields. The dicamba debacle pits farmers who use the weedkiller against those who don’t, and has already resulted in the death of one farmer who complained about drift and was shot by a worker on a neighboring farm.

Top photo: Jason Norsworthy, a University of Arkansas weed scientist, was one of a number of scientists whose studies undercut Monsanto’s claims that its new dicamba formula would not cause drift problems. In response, Monsanto accused Norsworthy of a conflict of interest, something his university said wasn’t true. Photo by Beth Hall.

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Produced with FERN, this article was first published by Reveal. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express permission from FERN. If you are interested in republishing or reposting this article, please contact info@thefern.org.