Despite farm-level support to the contrary, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has apparently decided to again restrict aerial applications of some preplant burndown herbicides in 2002.

The decision was made without the input of Delta Council, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, the Mississippi Aerial Applicators Association, the Mississippi Consultants Association or the Mississippi Agricultural Industry Council.

Instead, Lester Spell, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, instructed representatives from the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Mississippi Extension Service to make a recommendation on the matter. Included in the group advising Spell were Ed Dyess, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Will McCarty, Extension cotton specialist, Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, and Erick Larson, Extension corn specialist.

The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which boasts 217,046 member families in the state, says the group was never asked for its opinion on the proposed regulation changes.

“Before regulations are issued that directly impact our farmer members, we would like to have some input, and, in this case, we did not,” says David Waide, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau.

Kenneth Hood, Delta Council past president, agrees. “We are not necessarily against the proposed regulations, but in the past it has been a consensus-driven process, and we would have liked the opportunity to provide some input on the matter.”

Hood of Perthshire, Miss., who serves as chairman of Delta Council's research advisory committee, says, “As farmers who are directly affected by this policy issue, we need to understand how and why this decision was made.”

In a resolution adopted Aug. 23, the Delta Council stated its concern with the existing procedures and regulations imposed upon the timely and efficient use of non-selective burndown herbicides during most years of normal, spring weather patterns.

“You have a dry year, with the normal planting and emergence of corn, and we cannot live with the regulations and restrictions as they are in place today,” Hood says. “This resolution puts the issue on a fast track so the proper legislation can be put into place before the 2002 burndown season begins.”

In order for any regulations restricting the aerial application of non-selective herbicides to be practical for the farmers it impacts, Waide says, they need to be based on a number of factors, including wind speed, wind direction and the application equipment being used to apply the material.

“What we would like to see is something that would be reasonable with whatever weather conditions we have at the time,” he says. “Something else that could be a factor is the distance between the crop field being burned down and any emerged crops in the area.”

Through its resolution, Delta Council requested that a special committee of all interested parties be convened to study the existing technology and current regulations so that a consensus, which allows farmers to utilize any available technology, could be reached by the first of December.

Believing that waiting until December could narrow the available options for farmers, Spell set a Sept. 26 deadline for a policy decision to be made.

A Sept. 5 meeting with McCarty, Blaine, Larson, and representatives from the Bureau of Plant Industry yielded a recommendation for the continued restriction of aerially applied non-selective herbicides.

“We all agreed that regulatory measures are needed to provide a measure of protection to emerged susceptible crops and landscape based upon recent complaints filed with the Bureau of Plant Industry, particularly in 2000,” says Larson.

However, he says, “Since environmental conditions may substantially affect crop planting progress, foliage emergence and crop emergence, we proposed using different ban initiation dates depending upon latitude and including a provision for flexing this date.

The proposal, according to Larson and McCarty, maintains the March 15 ban initiation date for the Delta region south of Highway 8 and sets a March 25 ban initiation date for the area north of Highway 8.

“The 2001 burndown regulations will maintain a provision for emergency exemptions granted by authorized Bureau of Plant Industry employees within the ban period,” Larson says. “This should provide applicators, producers and the general public considerable application flexibility while maintaining the regulatory objective of protecting susceptible foliage.”


e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com