Last year was tough on southeast Missouri farmers. It is hard to imagine that what started out as shriveled soybean plants turned into lawsuits from growers and a deadly confrontation between fellow farmers — all because of dicamba drift.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens addressed the situation in a Facebook post. "In Southeast Missouri, crops were ruined, farms were destroyed and families were hurt by the illegal use of herbicides. That has to stop."
In Portageville, surrounded by farmers and agriculture industry leaders, the governor signed House Bill 662. The bill increases civil penalties for the off-label use of herbicides on a crop to $10,000 for each violation; for repeat offenders, that figure jumps to $25,000 per violation.
This area of the state was a focal point of dicamba drift in 2016, where Missouri Department of Agriculture officials investigated more than 100 cases that included acres of corn, soybeans, cotton, vegetables and orchards.
“This is an important issue, both for the southeast region and for everyone who values agriculture in Missouri," Greitens said in a news release. "I am proud to stand up for our farmers." He expressed his gratitude to state Rep. Don Rone of Portageville for working on the measure. "We're fighting for our farmers and ranchers to protect our state's top industry," Greitens added.
The bill states that during the complaint investigation, the Missouri Department of Agriculture may subpoena witnesses and "compel the production of records, including but not limited to books, documents, certifications and records of any person relating to the person's application of any herbicide in any field." Failure to provide the information could result in a fine of up to $5,000.
Penalties collected for violations of the law will go to the school district where the violation occurred.
"When a few bad actors can ruin the farms and lives of those around them, that's bad for our state," Greitens' post continued. "We're looking out for families in rural Missouri every day, and watching your back."