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Gubernatorial hopeful speaks against dicamba use in Illinois

MARINE, Ill. — A gubernatorial hopeful battling for position in a crowded Democratic primary field drew the attention of the Illinois farm community with remarks he made during a public radio interview calling for a statewide ban on the controversial herbicide dicamba.

During the late-January interview on Peoria’s WGLT-FM, Bob Daiber said in-season usage recommendations issued by the Illinois Department of Agriculture last fall stop short of safeguarding non-genetically modified (GMO) soybean and specialty crop growers from off-target dicamba applications.

“These do not do any safeguarding against the real culprit of using dicamba, and that’s the drift,” said Daiber, a Marine, Ill., resident who farms on two properties in Madison County and is the county’s regional superintendent of schools. “As we use this on more and more acres, we are going to see more and more damage.”

Following up on his WGLT interview, Daiber told Farm World that “more and more damage” will be followed with a spike in lawsuits pitting farmers against farmers, and farmers against the manufacturers of dicamba-based products: Monsanto, BASF and DuPont.

He said he first became concerned with the potential economic consequences associated with hundreds of dicamba-based lawsuits in Illinois after being approached by an insurance agent during a picnic at a Peoria-area park last fall.

“She expressed concern about the number of anticipated claims,” said Daiber, who left the event determined to better educate himself on the dicamba issue.

Over the fall and winter, he spoke to certified crop applicators and insurance professionals about dicamba before coming to a conclusion that was confirmed, for him, in January. That’s when the Illinois Department of Agriculture announced that of some 430 complaints filed with the department in 2017, about 240 were related to crop damage or loss from alleged off-target dicamba applications.

“That was alarming,” Daiber said, adding that Illinois growers should not feel comfortable spraying dicamba this year due to the number of complaints made to the department, combined with the fact that the U.S. EPA-issued “probationary” license for in-season dicamba use is now in its second and final year.

“I don’t think Illinois farmers want to be the guinea pigs and go out this year and wind up with litigation,” he noted. Instead, he recommends dicamba products be removed from the Illinois farmer’s weed management tool belt, at least for this year.

“I think that Monsanto and the producers of this product need to do more chemical research and testing because of what we’ve seen happen. The data is there. What’s on the market right now is going to present issues, present claims and present more extensive crop damage for farmers.”

Daiber said his experience with dicamba is not limited to reliance on outside sources of information. He has seen the damage caused by dicamba to fellow farmers’ non-GMO soybeans and specialty crops firsthand, helping him form his own observations about the characteristics of dicamba contamination.

“Dicamba droplets remain in clouds and fall out of the atmosphere with new precipitation, making it hard to control. It ‘spots’ crops here and there, and is scattered not just by wind drift,” he said.

While Daiber still faces a primary election to decide if will become the Democratic nominee for Illinois governor this year, he is calling on the General Assembly to move on dicamba as soon as legislators are called back to Springfield.

“I want to discuss this with the Senate Agriculture Committee and look at beginning to issue a bill. I would like to see legislation moving forward in the General Assembly this spring,” he said.

He added if elected governor, he would be willing to meet with the state agriculture department and farm organizations, along with environmentalists, and include their input in crafting a final dicamba policy for the state.

Along with the potential for crop damage and litigation, Daiber is concerned about the possible link to human lymphoma that was associated with dicamba in a recent European study. “You can bet the medical profession is going to be looking into this, both from the standpoint of inhaling it and the application of it to plants.”

He is firmly in favor of the use of GMO seed, on which dicamba must be sprayed in order to not contaminate the plant, and has been planting GMO seed since the “glyphosate days.”

He also is a strong proponent for improving Illinois’ rural broadband capacity, changing the estate tax threshold to help preserve farm family legacies and adjusting the state’s farmland assessment mechanism to better reflect variances in land production values throughout the state, he told Farm World.