Farm groups are looking to the Trump administration to quickly appeal a ruling blocking the use of dicamba herbicide and issue guidance on how the industry should address the issue.
Some states have told farmers they can no longer apply the herbicide over the top of crops as a result of the ruling last Wednesday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating registrations for several formulations, Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s FeXapan,
"The Ninth Circuit’s opinion potentially creates havoc for many soybean and cotton farmers,” says Roger McEowen, an agricultural law professor at the Washburn University in Kansas. “The next few days should be instructive in learning how far reaching the court’s decision will be for the present growing season.”
He wrote in a blog post that EPA has three main options: Ask the full Ninth Circuit to review the ruling that was made by a three-judge panel; ask the court to stay the opinion until the soybean and cotton growing seasons are over; or ignore the ruling outside the Ninth Circuit. That practical impact of the last option would be that "only farmers in Arizona would be impacted by the court’s decision,” McEowen said. “This approach …. is a tactic that the IRS often employs in tax cases that it uses.”
EPA hasn’t tipped its hand. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement issued Friday evening that his agency “is assessing all avenues to mitigate the impact of the court’s decision on farmers.”
As a result of the uncertainty about EPA's plans, a growing number of states have decided it’s all right to use dicamba. “For the order to take effect in Wisconsin, [EPA] must take action to revoke the registration of these products,” that state’s Department of Agriculture said.
In a statement Monday, the plaintiffs — the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, National Family Farm Coalition and Pesticide Action Network North America — said "EPA should immediately confirm to the states that these uses are illegal. EPA's failure to do so to this point is a dereliction of the agency's duty to farmers and the public. We represent farmers, including many who have suffered years of drift damage from these harmful dicamba products. They must not be subjected to a fourth year of rampant injury to their crops from dicamba drift."
Meanwhile this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will continue his national road trip to promote the $3 billion Farmers to Families Food Box program even as Senate Democrats raise questions about how well the money is being spent.
Perdue’s next stop on his Food Box tour is Monday in Orlando, Fla., where he will participate in an event with Republican Reps. Greg Steube and Ross Spano.
The program is a featured part of the department’s effort to help the produce, dairy, pork and chicken sectors deal with the coronavirus market disruptions. USDA said last week that 5 million boxes have been delivered so far, but that is a long way from Perdue’s goal of delivering 40 million of the boxes by June 30, the end of the program’s first round.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are raising questions about USDA’s vetting of the companies and organizations awarded contracts. In a letter Friday, the senators demanded answers from Perdue on a series of questions about the program, including how the department determined whether bidders were qualified to fulfill the contracts. The senators also want to know where in the country there are gaps in distribution of the food.
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Also this week, USDA will continue holding webinars for farmers interested in applying for the $16 billion in payments being distributed under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. A webinar on Tuesday afternoon will be for specialty crop producers. The next one, on Thursday, will be for dairy and non-specialty crop producers.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, June 8
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, June 9
3 p.m. — USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program webinar for specialty crop producers.
Wednesday, June 10
10 a.m. — Senate Small Business Committee hearing on implementation of the CARES Act, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, 301 Russell.
1 p.m. — House Small Business Committee virtual hearing, “The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: A View from Main Street,”
Thursday, June 11
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases the Weekly Export Sales report.
3 p.m. — USDA CFAP webinar for dairy and non-specialty crop producers.
Friday, June 12
Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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