By Clint Thompson
The Georgia Cotton Commission (GCC) is imploring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to respond quickly to Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona that vacated the registration of dicamba for over-the-top use on dicamba resistant cotton and soybeans.
The court noted that the EPA failed to meet regulatory requirements related to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. GCC Executive Director Taylor Sills highlighted the commission’s disappointment with the ruling, especially with planting season just a few months away.
“This is obviously a huge problem for Georgia cotton producers. Producers have already bought dicamba products. They’ve already bought dicamba tolerant seed. There is regulatory confusion about this that is extremely problematic as we move into planting season,” Sills said. “What we’re hopeful is that the EPA will respond, will respond forcefully and point out that the state of Georgia has done aggressive training, aggressive education and collected a lot of data about the appropriate uses of these products. We have not had the problems in the Southeast, Georgia in particular, that they’ve had in other parts of the country.
“Georgia cotton producers who have followed the label and followed the science should not have to suffer because the EPA did or did not do what they were supposed to do. We’re the shining star when it comes to this. We’re obviously a little defeated and concerned about this outcome and really want the EPA to find a way to get what’s on the market to be able to be used and make sure it’s done responsibly.”
Sills said not all growers use dicamba products. But of the more than 3,000 family cotton farmers in Georgia, many depend on dicamba as part of the tools needed to fight economic pests like palmer amaranth and morningglory.
“On the whole, our people try to be good neighbors and have a great record of stewardship on these products. But we need to offer producers the flexibility to do what’s best for their farm on an individual basis. A farm on one side of the county may be completely different from another,” Sills said. “This is a major tool in the sustainability of Georgia’s cotton producers. These products, when used safely and effectively as they are in the state of Georgia, help cut down on carbon emissions and help encourage on-target applications and help cut down on unnecessary trips to the field and overapplication of pesticides.
“They are a major contributor in the overall sustainability which the end consumer is so concerned about. I’m concerned if one tool is taken out of that tool chest, then that creates a problem for that long-term sustainability and viability of our family farms here in the state.”
Georgia producers have participated in a training effort called Using Pesticides Wisely. UGA Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture implemented the program which relays the results of sound science to farmers to help decrease off-target movements of dicamba products and other pesticides. To date, more than 17,000 individuals have been trained, resulting in Georgia having among the lowest levels of pesticide drift complaints in the country.