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Missouri lifts some restrictions on use of Monsanto-made herbicide dicamba

Monsanto is expected to keep a large operation in the St. Louis region after the Bayer buyout goes into effect.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:30 p.m. July 13 with comment from Monsanto — Farmers can resume using the herbicide dicamba, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The new restrictions come less than a week after the department issued a temporary ban on the sale and use of the controversial herbicide. Missouri has received more than 100 complaints this year of drifting herbicide, which had damaged crops.

Farmers who want to use newer versions of dicamba can spray between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and only if winds are less than 10 mph, the agriculture department’s news release said. The ban on using or selling older forms of the herbicide remains in place.

Monsanto makes dicamba and developed crop seeds that are resistant to it. Lisa Safarian, the president of Monsanto North America, applauded Missouri officials for coming up with a way to let farmers in the state use the herbicide again.

"Simply banning a tool that is important to many farmers’ success at this late stage in the season will hurt more farmers and not get states any closer to an effective solution," Safarian said.

The company faces a lawsuit from farmers in 10 states, including Missouri, whose crops were allegedly damaged when dicamba sprayed on neighboring farms drifted into their fields.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said the new restrictions on dicamba would protect all of the state’s farmers.

“I think it’s a good compromise, and it should benefit a lot of farmers who have invested in this technology and are now again able to use it,” Hurst said.

Original story from July 7

The Missouri Department of Agriculture halted the sale or use of any products containing the Monsanto-made herbicide Dicamba on Friday afternoon.

In a news release, the department said that all products that contain Dicamba and are labeled for agricultural use won’t be sold. The use of the product could bring penalties, the state said.


The agency said that it had received more than 130 “pesticide drift complaints” this year from people who did not put the herbicide on their crops. Already, farmers in 10 states — Missouri and neighboring Arkansas included — have sued Monsanto for seed damage that they attribute to the pesticide.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said in a statement that it's concerned about potential crop injury and is complying with the state's order. It also said it "spent years" developing the technology to "minimize the potential for off-site movement."

"We want to stress how important it is that growers and applicators who use our product follow the label requirements and any local requirements," the statement said.

Missouri's agriculture director, Chris Chinn, said the ban is meant to "protect farmers and their livelihoods."

"At the same time, my commitment to technology and innovation in agriculture is unwavering,” she said. “That’s why I am asking the makers of these approved post-emergent products, researchers and farmers to work with us to determine how we can allow applications to resume this growing season, under certain agreed upon conditions.”

The Missouri Farm Bureau said in a statement that there are “no good answers, no easy solutions” to the problem of herbicide drift. President Blake Hurst also said that it’s “incumbent on the companies active in this market to work with the (agriculture department) to find a way forward that protects both farmers at risk of losing their crops to weed infestation and those farmers' neighbors.”

Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill in February to strengthen penalties for herbicide misuse in Missouri.

Willis Ryder Arnold and Marshall Griffin contributed reporting

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.