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For a Second Time, US Court Bans Dicamba Weed Killers, Finds EPA Violated Law
Missouri Ag Connection - 02/12/2024

Dealing a blow to three of the world’s biggest agrochemical companies, a U.S. court this week banned three weed killers widely used in American agriculture, finding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law in allowing them to be on the market.

The ruling is specific to three dicamba-based weed killers manufactured by Bayer, BASF and Syngenta, which have been blamed for millions of acres of crop damage and harm to endangered species and natural areas across the Midwest and South.

This is the second time a federal court has banned these weed killers since they were introduced for the 2017 growing season. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own ban, but months later the Trump administration re-approved the weed killing products, just one week before the presidential election at a press conference in the swing state of Georgia.

But a federal judge in Arizona ruled late Monday that the EPA made a crucial error in re-approving dicamba, finding the agency did not post it for public notice and comment as required by law. US District Judge David Bury wrote in a 47-page ruling that it is a “very serious” violation and that if EPA did do a full analysis, it likely would not have made the same decision.

Bury wrote that the EPA did not allow many people who are deeply impacted by the weed killer – including specialty farmers, conservation groups and more – to comment.

The lawsuit was filed by farmer and conservation groups that said EPA violated two laws in its approval: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Endangered Species Act.

EPA spokesman Jeffrey Landis said the agency is still reviewing the ruling but declined to comment further.

“Time and time again, the evidence has shown that dicamba cannot be used without causing massive and unprecedented harm to farms as well as endangering plants and pollinators,” said George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which litigated the case.

Scientific concerns

Documents filed in the lawsuit show that the EPA was in a rush to approve dicamba in October 2020, with scientists complaining that they did not have enough time to do a proper analysis, The New Lede found.

One year later, the EPA issued a report in December 2021 that found despite new restrictions, dicamba was still moving off of where it was applied, and it was doubtful that dicamba, used on tens of millions acres of cotton and soybean crops in the US, could legally be kept on the market.

Bury wrote that if the EPA considered the 2021 report, comments from state agriculture agencies, specialty farmers and others, it likely would not reapprove dicamba.

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