Soybean farmers in Minnesota may continue to use dicamba, a herbicide that was banned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said Monday.
The state will not take action this summer against farmers who use three brands of the herbicide that the court banned in the United States, arguing that farmers have already planted seed with specific dicamba herbicide in mind and purchased the herbicide.
"The Circuit Court of Appeals decision to revoke the use of these products was, unfortunately, very untimely for our farmers as many had already purchased the herbicide for this growing season," said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. "Timing is critical for farmers to apply the products and our further interpretation of Minnesota law allows us to use these products."
The decision, which could change pending guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, drew sighs of relief from soybean farmers. The ruling might have narrowed options for weed control in their dicamba-resistant fields.
"Last week's ruling couldn't have come at a worse time for soybean farmers, and we greatly appreciate MDA and Commissioner Petersen's thoughtful action," said Joe Smentek, executive director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. "They found a solution that is rooted in law and will afford farmers the most protection from regulatory action."
Dicamba can drift and kill soybeans and other crops on nearby fields that are not engineered to resist the herbicide.
The chemical generated more than 2,700 complaints in more than 20 states, including Minnesota, and affected about 3.6 million acres in 2017, according to reports from state agriculture departments and state extension weed scientists compiled by the University of Missouri.
Several farm and environmental groups sued the EPA demanding that three of the four brands of dicamba herbicide be banned. The court granted the petition and banned the herbicides on June 3.
The American Farm Bureau Federation on Monday asked the EPA to issue an "existing stock order" that would allow farmers to use dicamba this growing season.
The decision by Petersen and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has the same effect for farmers in Minnesota.