Monsanto thought they had developed an amazing scheme to corner the Midwest farming market when they developed new genetically engineered seeds that were resistant to their new herbicide called dicamba. The resistance of Monsanto's new magical seed crops to dicamba meant that the herbicide could be sprayed liberally by farmers to eradicate weeds and boost yields.
Alas, as we pointed out last week (see: Meet Monsanto's Other Herbicide Problem...), a small problem emerged when spray drifts from those liberal herbicide applications began to wipe out the crops of neighboring farmers who didn't plant Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seeds.
Now, as the Wall Street Journal points out today, after allegedly wiping out millions of acres of farm ground across the Midwest, Monsanto once again finds itself in a familiar spot: the courtroom.
Monsanto’s new version of the herbicide called dicamba is part of a more than $1 billion investment that pairs it with new genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to the spray. But some farmers say their nonresistant crops suffered after neighbors’ dicamba drifted onto their land.
The agricultural giant in October sued the Arkansas State Plant Board following the board’s decision to bar Monsanto’s new herbicide and propose tougher restrictions on similar weed killers ahead of the 2018 growing season. Monsanto claims its herbicide is being held to an unfair standard.
Arkansas has been a flashpoint in the dispute: About 900,000 acres of crops were reported damaged there, more than in any other state.
About 300 farmers, crop scientists and other attendees gathered in Little Rock on Wednesday for a hearing on Arkansas’s proposed stiffer dicamba controls, which Monsanto and some farmers are fighting. The proposed restrictions are subject to the approval of a subcommittee of state legislators.
As we pointed out previously, the EPA has reported that farmers in 25 states submitted more than 2,700 claims to state agricultural agencies that neighbors’ dicamba spraying shriveled 3.6 million acres of soybeans. The herbicide is also blamed for damaging other crops, such as cantaloupe and pumpkins.
The massive crop damage prompted Arkansas’s Plant Board to propose the idea of prohibiting dicamba use from mid-April through the end of October to safeguard growing plants. The state has also refused to approve Monsanto’s dicamba product for use in Arkansas, saying it needs further analysis by University of Arkansas researchers.
Of course, delays didn't sit well with Monsanto which stands to make some $350 million a year in dicamba and related seed sales according to Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst with Bernstein who described the products as "their big moneymaker."
Meanwhile, farmers are exploring their own legal options with some joining a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto and BASF, seeking compensation for damaged crops.
For farmers, “it’s highly emotional,” said Doug Goehring, North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner.
Tom Burnham, who farms 11,000 acres near Blytheville, Ark., said he hired a lawyer to advise him on how to handle a neighbor whose errant dicamba spraying, Mr. Burnham said, reduced some fields’ harvest by 5% to 20%. Mr. Burnham said he didn’t expect to make money on any lawsuit he may file. “I’m doing it just to make a point.”
Seems like it may be time for Monsanto execs to start pulling some strings at the EPA again...