Dicamba is cause of concern for farmers

Local News
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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Dicamba is a controversial weed herbicide and it could be a growing problem for farmers in the state. It’s because it’s hard to contain and can damage nearby crops.

A new study shows the state is suffering from dicamba-damaged crops more than any other in the country.

Farmers are already having a rough year thanks to tariffs. Some farmers are against the use of dicamba. Illinois is home to roughly half of all US soybean production.

The Department of Agriculture says it’s the reason they believe Illinois is number one in the category, but they’re still concerned drop damage is on the rise.

If you spend your days in the field, dicamba is a divisive word. You’re either for or against it.

“I’ve used it the past two years and it’s a definite must.”

The herbicide is used to fight off ever-evolving strands of weeds. The problem is it can vaporize. If misused, it can damage crops or animals nearby.

“It’s unfortunately something we got to use.”

Kevin Engel is a farmer in Galesburg.  

“I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Illinois. My wife grew up on a beef farm.”

Now, they mainly grow wheat, corn and soybeans. That’s when the dicamba kicks in. He says he uses the chemical safely, but knows not everyone is as careful.

“A lot of people weren’t taking the time to know all the precautions.”

A growing number of soybean farmers in the state are turning to dicamba to protect their yields, but a new University of Missouri study shows it’s caused an uptick in damaged crops. Illinois is worse off than any other state.

“We are concerned about the number of reports we are getting about the drift.”

Doug Owens oversees pesticide control for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Last year, it received 456 complaints; more than half because of dicamba.

“Nobody out there wants to cause damage. It’s not intentional damage, but it is damage that may occur and it’s something that we must investigate and act appropriately.”

Farmers misusing dicamba can get a fine up to $10,000. But, he says if the EPA gives them the green light, they may take steps further.

“There is a possibility the state of Illinois could add further restrictions to that label for use in Illinois.”

Engel says he’s not sure if he’d be on board.

“If the restricted use of dicamba and given the price of beans right now, people would start looking at alternatives.”

No regulatory changes will happen without the EPA’s permission.

Since December, the Department of Agriculture has required farmers using dicamba to go through training courses. So far, it’s trained roughly 11,000. Some expect the amount of crop damage next year to go down because of it. 

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