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Fate of Dicamba-Based Products Awaiting EPA Decision

On October 1st, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler said to expect a decision by the end of the month regarding whether dicamba-based products can be used during the next planting season or not. The products in question include XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan.

In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked future use of the herbicide, arguing that the EPA ignored risks associated with the chemical drifting onto other properties and violated federal regulations when it extended licensing in October 2018 for two years. 

According to Bloomberg, the American Farm Bureau Association and other industry groups advocate for continued dicamba use, arguing that most crop farmers are already familiar with it and switching to other products could jeopardize yields. Others take issue with the chemical’s high volatility level, a key factor for its history of vaporizing into areas with soils that don’t have resistance to it, damaging other crops.

U.S. crop farmers are currently in the middle of harvest, which is when they start deciding which agricultural chemicals to bet on for next season. “The longer the EPA waits to make the decision, the more likely it is in my view that farmers switch anyway just due to the uncertainty,” Morningstar analyst Seth Goldstein said in an interview. “I think farmers would rather have the certainty of a product even if they haven’t used it before.”

Farmers unwilling to risk buying dicamba-based products on fears it’ll get banned could try alternatives including 2,4-D, the active ingredient in Corteva’s Enlist line of herbicides. Like dicamba, it’s often grouped with glufosinate -- a chemical that has become popular in recent decades because of its effectiveness against newer strains of weeds that developed with the rise of genetically modified seeds.

If the EPA rules against dicamba, Bayer announced they will compensate farmers who bought its dicamba products, including as much as $7 off each unit of some soybean seeds and $40 off each unit of certain cotton seeds resistant to the herbicide. Bayer is willing to make such provisions despite being “very confident” on future prospects of its dicamba-based XtendiMax, product manager Alex Zenteno said in an interview.

“We’re willing to put a program down to help growers get that confidence if they’re feeling uncertain or unsure, or considering other options,” she said.

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The entire contents of this article can be found on Bloomberg.

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