The controversial weedkiller dicamba, which has wreaked havoc in soybean country over the last two years, is dividing communities and pitting neighbor against neighbor as the 2019 growing season gets underway. FERN’s latest story, a radio piece produced with Reveal and the podcast Us & Them, takes listeners inside these divided communities in Arkansas.
In November, 2018, FERN and Reveal partnered on an investigation that showed how the EPA had ignored decades of independent science in approving new and expanded uses of the lucrative herbicide. Over the years, academic scientists had found that dicamba was prone to drift off target, damaging crops on neighboring farms and wild plants. Sure enough, in 2017-18, dicamba drift did millions of dollars worth of damage in two-dozen states.
In our latest piece, a sequel to last year’s story, Us & Them’s Trey Kay and Loretta Williams unpack the human drama behind the ongoing agricultural tragedy.
Dicamba is “a chemical used to get rid of aggressive weeds in soybean fields. Soybeans are a 40 billion dollar business in the US. But prices per bushel plummeted last year because of the US trade war with China. Soybean farmers are desperate for anything that can help keep their profits up. But here’s the problem: besides killing weeds, dicamba is blamed for damaging some three and half million acres of valuable crops in 2017. There’ve been petitions, lawsuits and even a death that’s been blamed on an argument over dicamba. And it’s forcing each farmer to ask: where’s the line between doing what’s good for my business and doing what’s good for my neighbors?”