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‘Solving herbicide issue in a street fight?’

"University of Arkansas weed scientists are the best -- their research is rock solid, unbiased, and I will certainly stand on it."

Wow the past few days have sure been exciting. It all started with Monsanto’s Petition to the Arkansas State Plant Board and related agencies. From there it has been constant phone calls, cards, letters, emails etc.

I can only assume they decided personal attacks might be more effective than a scientific approach to resolving the dicamba issue. Article headlines like “the gloves are off” and “a bare knuckle approach” have been common. I question how a herbicide issue can be resolved in a street fight.

I am elated to see the vigor in which the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture administration has defended its weed scientists. I am still awaiting our Governor’s Office and Department of Agriculture to do the same. The University of Arkansas weed scientists are the best. Their research is rock solid, unbiased, and I will certainly stand on it. Personal attacks on them are without excuse.

In my case, they came out guns blazing before they had their facts in order. The opening statement that I spoke with bias at the first Dicamba Task Force meeting in favor of an April 15 cutoff was simply false as the record clearly shows. I purposely avoided any and all appearances of attempting to bias the Task Force.

The only time I spoke at all was in response to a question from a member regarding any observations from my travels in the Midwest. I have been asked many times to provide expert opinions to the Plant Board. However, I have never made a recommendation on how they should vote.

I have always recognized there are a multitude of opinions and facts they have to consider. I thought it was interesting that bias due to my contract with Bayer was called into question when Bayer is in the process of buying Monsanto and could have the Xtend technology in 2018. Part of what I do in the private sector is expert-witness related. It is common knowledge I am a retained expert in a peach case in Missouri. If called upon I will provide an expert opinion just as I have for Monsanto when retained by them.

I don’t know a single weed scientist who would not like to see the dicamba part of the Xtend technology succeed. That is precisely why I spoke up at a Plant Board meeting last year when the motion was on the floor to put all forms of dicamba under an April 15 cutoff. While I was extremely concerned how much “lower volatility” was low enough, I felt Engenia should be given a chance to see if this technology could work.

I am on record in this column over at least a four-year period stating that I did not believe dicamba could be sprayed in concentrated areas in summer temperatures and kept on target. I have simply known that from 40-plus years working with auxin herbicides.

I have predicted the wedge being driven between farmers and the one beginning to be driven between AG and the non-AG community. I have stared repeatedly that in our area Xtend was an all or nothing technology. I have never made any of those statements to suggest the Board go one way or the other but rather as statements of fact. If those were based on bias I would have been proven wrong and been kicked to the curb.

Instead, over 900 official Plant Board complaints speak for themselves. You simply cannot spray an auxin herbicide with a proven volatility component on large concentrated acreages in the summer without major off target issues. Quite honestly. flippant responses toward those damaged by off target movement of dicamba bother me far more than anything said personally toward me.

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