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Officials: Herbicide restrictions could harm S.C. cotton and soybean harvest

Staff Report //June 10, 2020//

Officials: Herbicide restrictions could harm S.C. cotton and soybean harvest

Staff Report //June 10, 2020//

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In 2019, S.C. farmers planted 335,000 acres of soybeans, a crop pesticide regulation officials say could be devestated with new herbicide restrictions. (Photo/Provided)

Officials with Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation warn that new herbicide prohibitions could devastate South Carolina’s cotton and soybean harvest.

A recent ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put dicamba, one of the most widespread herbicides used across the state, in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s crosshairs, according to a news release. Both the sale and distribution of dicamba-based FeXapan, Engenia and Xtendimax with Vaporgrip Technology will be prohibited after July 31.

In response to the ruling and EPA orders, Clemson’s regulation department issued a statement on the impact new regulations may have on South Carolina’s agricultural community.

Dicamba is one of few herbicides able to stamp out pigweed, a significant threat to South Carolina’s half-million acres of cotton and soybeans, the release said. Cotton and soybeans are the Palmetto State’s largest crops, aside from corn, in terms of acreage.

“A preponderance of cotton and soybean varieties planted in South Carolina are designed to be resistant to dicamba, so this is a very big and difficult change for producers,” Steve Cole, director of Clemson’s regulatory unit, said in the release. “The fact that it comes right in the middle of the planting and growing season is like a double whammy. They’ve already got expensive seed in the ground relying on a herbicide that had been previously approved by the EPA but taken away after the court decision.

The statement advised all pesticide dealers in the state to halt the sales of these the products immediately and either return them to the registrant or dispose of them through another legal method. Commercial and private applicators who have existing stock of the products now can use them until the end of July, but Clemson officials argue that the regulations will still damage crop returns so early in the season.

“It turned out to be the worst possible timing for agriculture, especially in the Southeast,” said Mike Weyman, Regulatory Services deputy director. “It’s not just the manufacturers and distributers, but the farmers. The growing season won’t wait for them to line up a replacement. There are no winners here.”