Soybean farmers scramble after ruling revokes herbicide permit

seeds flow through a machine
Soybean seeds flow through a processing machine at Tobolt Seed in Moorhead.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News 2021

Soybean farmers are scrambling after a federal judge this week revoked the permit for a widely used herbicide.

Farmers plant soybeans that are genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide dicamba. They then spray weeds with the herbicide without harming the soybean plants.

But dicamba has caused problems by drifting into other fields and harming crops.

Environmental groups sued, saying the Environmental Protection Agency should not have approved the chemical.

American Soybean Association president Josh Gackle said farmers in 26 states, including Minnesota, have asked EPA to allow them to use the chemical this year. He said the court ruling leaves farmers in limbo.

“There’s kind of a plan in place, and this plan has been in the works for six months between producers, retailers, manufacturers, so to change those rules so late in the game, it really is a hardship,” Gackle said.

But the Center for Food Safety (CFS) said the ruling is a victory for small farmers and endangered plants and animals.

“This is a vital victory for farmers and the environment,” CFS legal director George Kimbrell said in a statement. “Time and time again, the evidence has shown that dicamba cannot be used without causing massive and unprecedented harm to farms as well as endangering plants and pollinators.”

Gackle said most farmers have already purchased seeds and chemicals for this year.