Arkansas judge freezes herbicide ban for about 85 farmers

MarketsAssociated Press

An Arkansas judge has ruled that a statewide ban on an herbicide blamed for damaging crops does not apply to a small group of farmers.

The state Plant Board's statewide ban on dicamba takes effect Monday and will run through October 31. The ban was issued after the board received nearly 1,000 complaints last summer that the herbicide drifted onto crops and caused damage.

Continue Reading Below

Judge Tonya Alexander issued the ruling Thursday after attorney David Burnett filed a motion on behalf of about 85 farmers, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Alexander said the farmers faced harm to their crops without the order.

"Although we were not served with a complaint and had no knowledge of the judge's action in this case, we have obtained a copy of the temporary restraining order and the plaintiff's filings and are reviewing them," said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office, which is representing the Plant Board.

Burnett said most of his clients are from Mississippi, Poinsett and Crittenden counties, the source of more than half of the board's complaints.

Alexander's ruling only affects the farmers named in the filing. The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday stayed an earlier ruling by a Pulaski County judge that exempted six other farmers from the dicamba ban.

Rutledge's office asked the state Supreme Court last week to stay Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox's order until an appeal is heard. But attorney Grant Ballard argued that the six farmers' herbicide use won't be a statewide threat.

The six farmers sued the board in November after unsuccessfully contesting the April 16 cutoff date. They instead asked for a May 25 cutoff, along with other restrictions, which were rejected by the board.

Fox dismissed the farmers' lawsuit over the ban, citing the state's sovereign immunity. But he voided the rule for the six farmers, ruling their due process rights and right to appeal the ban had been curtailed.

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com