LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel Wednesday postponed a vote on a proposed temporary ban on the sale and use of the herbicide dicamba.
The Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council voted to refer the 120-day ban proposed by the state Plant Board to the House and Senate agriculture committees and to take it up again on Friday afternoon, after those committees consider it Friday morning.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved the ban Friday, but it still needs approval from the executive subcommittee before it can be implemented. The Plant Board proposed the temporary ban in response to complaints from hundreds of Arkansas farmers who say their neighbors’ use of the herbicide has damaged their crops.
Some members of the subcommittee voiced concerns Wednesday about farmers who have bought the herbicide because the state approved its use and would not be able to use it if it were banned.
“This is a 100 percent government-caused problem,” said Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs.
Rep. David Branscum, R-Marshall, co-chairman of the subcommittee, said farmers being barred from using the herbicide after they bought it would be like Arkansas letting the clock run out in the third quarter of a football game with Alabama and then “the SEC commissioner calls and says, ‘You know what, we’re changing the rules. We’re going to end this game in the third quarter now. Arkansas, you lose.’”
The panel did approve proposed emergency and permanent rules that would allow the board to assess penalties of more than $1,000 but not more than $25,000 for “egregious” violations of dicamba rules that result in significant crop damage.
Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, the subcommittee’s other co-chairman, asked Plant Board Director Terry Walker whether all uses of the herbicide would be considered egregious violations if the ban were approved. Walker said they would if they occurred during the 120 days the temporary ban would be in effect.
Cutline: Arkansas State Plant Board Director Terry Walker takes questions from lawmakers Wednesday during a meeting of the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council. The panel decided to postpone a vote on the Plant Board’s proposed temporary ban on the herbicide dicamba. (John Lyon photo