East Arkansas judges halt state's ban on dicamba as AG readies appeals | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 19, 2018

East Arkansas judges halt state's ban on dicamba as AG readies appeals

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge DICAMBA DAMAGE: The herbicide has a tendency to damage nearby crops and trees. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • DICAMBA DAMAGE: The herbicide has a tendency to damage nearby crops and trees.

Arkansas's battle over dicamba, the controversial herbicide banned recently by the Arkansas State Plant Board, has entered a volatile new stage.

At least four separate legal challenges to the state's ban have now been filed by groups of farmers in four northeast Arkansas counties — Phillips, Mississippi, Greene and Clay — who want to use the herbicide, the office of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge confirmed today. Here's the complaint from Mississippi County, which contains the largest number of plaintiffs. (The 85 farmers in that complaint also happen to be represented by David Burnett, the former Democratic state senator perhaps best known for presiding over the trial of the West Memphis Three.)

Circuit judges in Phillips and Mississippi counties sided with the plaintiffs last week, issuing temporary restraining orders against the plant board's ban. The attorney general's office has filed notice that it will appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Meanwhile, judges in Greene and Clay counties will hold hearings on two similar complaints tomorrow morning.

The wave of lawsuits comes in the wake of a March 30 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox that the plant board's dicamba ban did not apply to six plaintiffs. Fox dismissed the suit in light of the state Supreme Court's recent earthquake ruling essentially declaring the state immune from lawsuit, a conclusion reached earlier by another Pulaski County circuit judge. However, Fox then said the Supreme Court's new interpretation of sovereign immunity also meant the farmer's due process rights had been violated, since they essentially had no resource to challenge the state plant board's actions.

Emily Unglesbee, a reporter for the Progressive Farmer, quoted the plaintiffs' attorney, Grant Ballard on Fox's ruling.
"But the judge added that — if that's true — then farmers don't have any opportunity to remedy their damages or appeal decisions of the state plant board, and that is a violation of their due process rights under state and federal constitutions," Ballard said. "So he dismissed the lawsuit, but since that violated these gentlemen's due process rights, he said the order of the plant board is void for these plaintiffs."
When the attorney general appealed, the state Supreme Court then stayed Fox's order. For now, the six plaintiff's in that case cannot use dicamba. But Fox's decision prompted other farmers in East Arkansas to file suits of their own. The state Supreme Court will likely have to weigh in on the temporary restraining orders handed down by Judge Tonya Alexander in Mississippi County and Judge Christopher Morledge in Phillips County.

The latest legal turmoil has attracted national attention from NPR, which reported yesterday on the confused state of affairs among farmers unsure whether to buy dicamba-resistant seed or not. Even farmers who might not want to use dicamba on their own crops will be affected by the decision, since the chemical has a tendency to drift onto neighboring fields. The plant board's ban against dicamba was itself the product of a contentious and convoluted process fought every step of the way by biotech giant Monsanto, which wants a ready market for its dicamba-resistant seed.

For background on the dicamba saga, which has pitted farmer against farmer in the soybean fields of East Arkansas, read David Koon's story for the Arkansas Times last summer.

Tags: , , , , , ,



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Supreme Court overturns contempt order against DHS for at-home services rule

    The justices were split, 5-2, with Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justice Jo Hart dissenting. The ruling appears to have no immediate impact for ARChoices beneficiaries.
    • Apr 18, 2019
  • Update: State Supreme Court orders new trial in Torres capital murder case

    The court remanded the case for a new trial. The reversal was due to an underlying flaw in the legal arguments made by prosecutors in the case, turning on the question of whether an Arkansas trial court had jurisdiction in regards to the underlying felony of rape.
    • Apr 18, 2019
  • Arkansas Medicaid sees enrollment bump

    Though the rise is modest, it is notable because the Medicaid expansion population has shrunk almost every month for the past two years. As highlighted by Governor Hutchinson, enrollment peaked at around 330,000 in early 2017 but has been declining ever since.
    • Apr 15, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Little Rock school activists announce events for 60th anniversary of Central High crisis

    The group is not affiliated with the official "Reflections of Progress" commemoration of the 60th anniversary. However, at least two of the Little Rock Nine may be joining the group for an event at 2:30 p.m. at the state Capitol in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Trump tariffs hit farmers hard

    Well, the trade war has begun and the early returns for farmers are not good — sharp reductions in the prices for soybeans and corn. You may have heard that Arkansas, which overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, has some agricultural interests, particularly in soybeans.
    • Jul 6, 2018
  • Arkansas legislature rejects bipartisan effort to study race relations

    On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council soundly rejected a bipartisan effort by two senators to to create a temporary legislative subcommittee to study race relations in the state.
    • Sep 15, 2017

Most Recent Comments


© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation