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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Vacates Dicamba Registrations

This original article was published on June 4, 2020 by AgriPulse. You can access the original article here. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated the registrations of three dicamba herbicides — Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s FeXapan — after finding that EPA substantially understated or failed to consider the social and economic costs.

When it granted conditional registrations in October 2018, “EPA underestimated by as much as 25 percent the amount of DT [dicamba-tolerant] soybeans planted and, commensurately, the amount of dicamba herbicides applied in 2018,” which caused more than 1 million acres of damage in 18 states, the court said in its 56-page decision.

Loss of the herbicides in the middle of growing season will likely find growers scrambling to find alternatives. The court’s decision does not address Tavium, Syngenta’s dicamba herbicide.

We acknowledge the difficulties these growers may have in finding effective and legal herbicides to protect their DT crops if we grant vacatur,” the court said. “They have been placed in this situation through no fault of their own. However, the absence of substantial evidence to support the EPA’s decision compels us to vacate the registrations.”

An EPA spokesperson said it is “currently reviewing the court decision and will move promptly to address the court’s order.”

“EPA recognized that there had been an enormous increase in dicamba complaints in 2017 and 2018, but it purported to be agnostic as to whether those complaints under-reported or over-reported the amount of dicamba damage,” the court said. “In fact, record evidence shows that the complaints substantially under-reported the actual amount of damage.”

“EPA also entirely failed to acknowledge a social cost that had already been experienced and was likely to increase,” the court said. “The record contains extensive evidence that [over-the-top] application of dicamba herbicides has torn apart the social fabric of many farming communities.”

The decision was praised by the environmental groups that brought the case — the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

“The court found that EPA ‘refused to estimate the amount of dicamba damage’ by characterizing it as ‘potential’ and ‘alleged,’ when in fact the record showed that ‘dicamba had caused substantial and undisputed damage,'” the groups said in a news release. “Similarly, EPA ignored the consensus views of scientists, farmers, and even EPA officials that formal complaints of dicamba damage understated actual damage, solely because Monsanto had claimed the contrary.”

“This is a massive victory that will protect people and wildlife from uses of a highly toxic pesticide that never should’ve been approved by the EPA,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Bayer said, “We strongly disagree with the ruling and are assessing our options,” according to a company statement. “If the ruling stands, we will work quickly to minimize any impact on our customers this season. Our top priority is making sure our customers have the support they need to have a successful season.”

The company also said EPA had “conducted an extensive review and considered all relevant science prior to issuing the current registration for XtendiMax” and said it “stands fully behind our XtendiMax product.”

The court also found problems with the label used for the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons. “Extensive evidence in the record indicates that there is a risk of substantial non-compliance with the EPA-mandated label,” the court said.

“Even before the additional restrictions were added to the 2018 label, many industry professionals had been dismayed by the difficulty in complying with the complex and onerous label requirements,” the court said. “By October 2018, there was substantial evidence that even conscientious applicators had not been able consistently to adhere to the label requirements.”

In its Oct. 31, 2018, decision approving over-the-top use of dicamba on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton, “EPA nowhere acknowledged the evidence in the record showing there had been substantial difficulty in complying with the mitigation requirements of earlier labels,” the court said. “Nor did it acknowledge the likelihood that the additional mitigation requirements imposed by the 2018 label would increase the degree of non-compliance.”

The court also said EPA had “entirely failed to acknowledge the substantial risk that the registrations would have anticompetitive economic effects in the soybean and cotton industries.”

EPA Announces Changes to Dicamba Registration

The original press release came from the EPA and can be found here. The following is copied over from that original press release date 10/31/2018.

EPA Announces Changes To Dicamba Registration

10/31/2018

Contact Information: 

EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov )

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is extending the registration of dicamba for two years for “over-the-top” use (application to growing plants) to control weeds in fields for cotton and soybean plants genetically engineered to resist dicamba. This action was informed by input from and extensive collaboration between EPA, state regulators, farmers, academic researchers, pesticide manufacturers, and other stakeholders.

“EPA understands that dicamba is a valuable pest control tool for America’s farmers,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “By extending the registration for another two years with important new label updates that place additional restrictions on the product, we are providing certainty to all stakeholders for the upcoming growing season.”

The following label changes were made to ensure that these products can continue to be used effectively while addressing potential concerns to surrounding crops and plants:

Dicamba registration decisions for 2019-2020 growing season

  • Two-year registration (until December 20, 2020)
  • Only certified applicators may apply dicamba over the top (those working under the supervision of a certified applicator may no longer make applications)
  • Prohibit over-the-top application of dicamba on soybeans 45 days after planting and cotton 60 days after planting
  • For cotton, limit the number of over-the-top applications from 4 to 2 (soybeans remain at 2 OTT applications)
  • Applications will be allowed only from 1 hour after sunrise to 2 hours before sunset
  • In counties where endangered species may exist, the downwind buffer will remain at 110 feet and there will be a new 57-foot buffer around the other sides of the field (the 110-foot downwind buffer applies to all applications, not just in counties where endangered species may exist)
  • Clarify training period for 2019 and beyond, ensuring consistency across all three products
  • Enhanced tank clean out instructions for the entire system
  • Enhanced label to improve applicator awareness on the impact of low pH’s on the potential volatility of dicamba
  • Label clean up and consistency to improve compliance and enforceability

The registration for all dicamba products will automatically expire on December 20, 2020, unless EPA further extends it.

EPA has reviewed substantial amounts of new information and concluded that the continued registration of these dicamba products meets FIFRA’s registration standards. The Agency has also determined that extending these registrations with the new safety measures will not affect endangered species.

Learn more: https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/registration-dicamba-use-genetically-engineered-crops