Seed World

Recent Dicamba Decision Shows U.S. Courts Don’t Understand the Timing of the Ag Cycle

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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February 6th changed the crop plans for farmers across the country, just weeks before the 2024 planting season.

The U.S. District Court in Arizona vacated the 2020 EPA registrations for dicamba products used in over-the-top applications. The details of the decision have been widely discussed and debated, except for one key point.

The timing of the implementation of the ruling shows that the seed industry has a long way to go when it comes to educating the courts on the timing of the agricultural cycle. Rather than give farmers, seed companies and input suppliers time to react, the ruling took effect immediately. Dicamba products sitting in retail location warehouses and in farmer sheds, and soybeans packaged and en route to their final destinations were instantly out of position.

In short, the ruling caught the entire nation’s seed supply chain off guard.

The reaction was swift and overwhelming. Farmers understandably wanted to stick with the plans they’d made. Millions had been spent on the assumption these products would be available. Suddenly, they weren’t. 

On Feb. 14, the EPA responded by issuing an Existing Stock Order that now allows the use of dicamba products for over-the-top application so long as those products were in the hands of farmers or already in the sales channel prior to its Feb. 6 ruling. The Order does not apply to any product still in possession or under the control of the pesticide companies.

The industry let out a collective sigh of relief and had a reason to compliment the EPA on the expediency of its decision-making. A rarity indeed!

This entire situation, however, shows all of us in the seed business just how much work there is to do in educating the courts, regulators and legislators on the timing and cycles of agriculture. Planting doesn’t start when the seed goes in the ground. It’s planned months and years in advance. The decisions seed companies are making today are for the 2025 planting season, not 2024. Breeding decisions and chemical discoveries are made years prior.

The call to action is this…we all need to take a more active role in telling this story. Only one percent of Americans are involved in agriculture. Farming is not general knowledge anymore. We need to think of our industry as a specialty field and one that requires constant and proactive education of those who impact our industry and the livelihoods of farmers. 

You can do this by speaking with your local elected officials, posting content to social media and just talking to your non-farmer neighbors about how you plan and make decisions. If we all take these small steps, the hope is that we can avoid situations where a single court ruling delivers an instant dose of uncertainty into the entire seed supply chain.