On Monday (Oct. 30), Monsanto registered a complaint regarding e-mails sent by an Arkansas Plant Board member. The latest twist of the dicamba saga comes just days prior to the Plant Board’s Nov. 8 public hearing. A board-backed, mid-April spraying ban of all dicamba formulations for the 2018 growing season is expected to be addressed at length.
The complaint says board member Terry Fuller, who represents seed growers in the state, sent an email in late October advocating for the board’s dicamba-related positions. The email also asked for supporters to “attend (the Nov. 8) meeting, write a letter and/or share with other contacts…” notes encouraging the adoption of board proposals. Attached to the email were several “dummy” letters supporters could sign and use to express their support.
Fuller, pointing to his obligation to provide seed growers with his best informed advice, rejects the notion he did anything wrong in sending the email. “I believe the science behind the (spraying ban),” he says. “If that’s the best thing then I have to tell people how” to get such a ban enacted.
Monsanto, citing impartiality requirements of the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act, claims Fuller’s email should “disqualify” him from any further dicamba rulemaking in the state. The company also calls for “any and all actions necessary to ensure that no other members of the Plant Board or its affiliates are engaged in, or have engaged in, improper advocacy or solicitations regarding this rulemaking.”
Earlier letters similar to Fuller’s but advocating Monsanto’s position in the imbroglio have surfaced. A letter and corresponding website encourages those opposed to a dicamba ban to “submit your comments and mark your calendar to attend” last year’s Plant Board Nov. 21 meeting. A dummy letter was also provided for those looking for ease in commenting.
Difficulties with off-target damage in the Mid-South have dogged Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant Xtend technology since its release. The company’s XtendiMax dicamba formulation, which it claims is less volatile than generics, is currently not allowed to be applied in Arkansas. The only new formulation allowed, Engenia, is a BASF product.
In early November, the EPA claimed dicamba damaged more than 3.6 million acres of soybeans during the growing season. Multiple complaints across many states have been made and class-action lawsuits have been filed. So far, nearly 1,000 official off-target dicamba drift complaints have been filed with the Arkansas Plant Board.