The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will approve new registrations for two "over-the-top" dicamba products and extend the registration of a third product for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton.

“With today’s decision, farmers now have the certainty they need to make plans for their 2021 growing season,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “After reviewing substantial amounts of new information, conducting scientific assessments based on the best available science, and carefully considering input from stakeholders we have reached a resolution that is good for our farmers and our environment.”

EPA on Tuesday approved new registrations for XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and Engenia Herbicide and extended the registration for Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology. The registrations will expire in 2025.

According to the EPA, 41% of U.S. soybean acreage in 2018 was planted with dicamba-tolerant seed and almost 70% of U.S. cotton acreage in 2019 was planted with dicamba-tolerant seed. Dicamba is seen as a cost-effective manner of controlling weeds that may have become resistant to other herbicides.

However, dicamba has been show to drift to places other than where it was sprayed under certain conditions, leading to complaints about damage to animals and plants, including crops, that are not dicamba tolerant being affected by the herbicide.

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Complaints of dicamba drift damage led to a lawsuit that ended up with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2020 vacating the registrations for three herbicides — Bayer's Xtendimax, BASF's Engenia and Corteva's FeXapan. Several states allowed producers to use existing supplies of dicamba products.

Ninth Circuit vacates dicamba registrations

The new registrations for the products will include new control measures aimed at reducing the problems caused by dicamba drift:

  • Requiring an approved pH-buffering agent (also called a Volatility Reduction Agent or VRA) be tank mixed with OTT dicamba products prior to all applications to control volatility.
  • Requiring a downwind buffer of 240 feet and 310 feet in areas where listed species are located.
  • Prohibiting OTT application of dicamba on soybeans after June 30 and cotton after July 30.
  • Simplifying the label and use directions so that growers can more easily determine when and how to properly apply dicamba.

Agricultural Retailers Association President and CEO Daren Coppock in a statement said the announcement will allow farmers and retailers "to make firmer plans for the next five years with this critical question answered."

"In addition to providing certainty and clarity, we continue to applaud EPA's work to ensure that all decisions are made through a rigorous scientific approval process," he said.

Opponents of the use of dicamba, including environmental and food safety groups, were quick to condemn the EPA's announcement.

"Rather than evaluating the significant costs of dicamba drift as the Ninth Circuit told them the law required, EPA rushed re-approval as a political prop just before the election, sentencing farmers and the environment to another five years of unacceptable damage," George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. "Center for Food Safety will most certainly challenge these unlawful approvals."

To view the final registration of the dicamba products, visit docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0492 at www.regulations.gov.