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Eastern Arkansas faces potential 650,000 to 800,000 acres of dicamba damage

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 11:01 PM CDT
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WYNNE, Ark. (KAIT) - On Wednesday, Senator Ron Caldwell toured thousands of acres of crops damaged by dicamba. He is trying to get the Arkansas Agriculture Board to change spraying rules.

Dicamba is a herbicide used to kill pigweeds but can be very damaging if it’s transmitted from one crop to another.

Caldwell, along with Arkansas Department of Agriculture extension agents, traveled to Wynne, Forrest City, Marianna, Stuttgart, DeWitt, and Holly Grove, to hear from farmers.

There’s no official data yet.

However, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is still accessing the damage, but they think anywhere from 650,000 to 800,000 acres of crops are damaged just in the eastern Arkansas areas they visited Wednesday.

Farmers agree that one person can devastate thousands of acres of crops.

“I don’t know of a field yet that hasn’t been hit,” said the owner of Matthews Sweet Potato Farm.

The owner says his entire crop has been damaged. He raises about 1,050 acres of sweet potatoes. He says he has been experiencing issues for four to five years and won’t know how much damage there is until harvest time in the fall.

“It can hit me pretty hard if it hits me that bad, but a million dollars is a lot for me. We’ve been looking at these things for two weeks, and it’s still there. You can see noticeable damage on the leaves,” said Matthews.

Other farmers at the meeting say, in the past, usually, about 10 percent of their crops are damaged. That means they’re out at least $1 million.

Most farmers want the same thing as a solution, like Tim Fisher, the owner of Fisher Farm. He has damaged soybean crops.

“We hope to push this spray time back into May where it was because we feel like the June spray date gets the heat on us and lets it move around everywhere,” said Fisher.

Wes Ward, the Secretary of Agriculture, confirms that the hotter and more humid it is, the more likely dicamba is to travel on other crops.

Caldwell says they’re trying to get the agriculture board to change rules.

“What we hope to do is get a cutoff period that would work for all farmers. They still need to control the pigweed, but as one of the scientists has said, basically, we have a dicamba bomb right now,” said Caldwell. “Between the heat and humidity, the dicamba is in the air, and it just won’t go away.”

Ward says last year, they received 218 complaints when the spray cutoff date was May 25. So far this year, they’ve had 290 complaints with a June 30 cutoff.

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