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EPA, herbicide makers agree to new limits for use, labeling of dicamba

WASHINGTON (AP)  The Trump administration has reached a deal with three major agribusiness companies for new voluntary labeling requirements for a controversial herbicide blamed for damaging crops.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday its agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont regarding the application of dicamba, which is used to control weeds in fields of genetically modified cotton and soybeans. Farmers who don't buy the special resistant seeds sold by the herbicide makers have complained that dicamba sprayed on neighboring properties drifts over and harms their crops, resulting in temporary bans issued last summer by state officials in Arkansas and Missouri.

"EPA carefully reviewed the available information and developed tangible changes to be implemented during the 2018 growing season," the agency said in a media release. "This is an example of cooperative federalism that leads to workable national-level solutions."

Under the deal, dicamba products will be labeled as "restricted use" beginning with the 2018 growing season. New rules will limit when and how the herbicide can be sprayed, such as time of day and when maximum winds are blowing below 10 mph. Farmers will be required to maintain specific records showing their compliance with the new restrictions.

EPA said the labels could be revised again in two years, when the current federal registration allowing dicamba to be sold in the United States is up for review.

Dicamba has been on the market for decades, but problems arose in recent years as farmers began to plant new seeds engineered to be resistant to the herbicide. Because it can easily evaporate after being applied, dicamba can drift on the wind into neighboring fields. Some farmers also illegally sprayed dicamba before federal regulators approved new versions that are supposed to be less volatile.

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