I have held off writing this article until late enough in the season that I wouldn't jinx anything. We have had an absolutely fabulous year in Arkansas from a herbicide drift standpoint.
It was not perfect. I am aware of a couple of situations where farmers got hurt pretty bad. The fact that we had a great year likely does not make those guys feel any better.
I hope the vast improvement we made this year is the step in the right direction that has been needed. My friends at the Arkansas State Plant Board are elated to the point they are almost afraid to talk about the total number of complaints (on all herbicides) they had this year. It is not my place to reveal any numbers, but they were very low.
The question on everybody's mind now: is the low number a reflection of real improvement on everybody's part or was it a fluke?
Some are saying that the improvement we had in glyphosate complaints was simply due to the fact this spring was not a “windy spring” by Arkansas standards. I would agree that it was not a “windy spring.”
Another thing that was different this year is the weather pattern in the spring did not push cotton growers up against the glyphosate cutoff. I believe that was a big factor last year that caused a lot of bad decisions to be made in some areas of the state.
I will concede we had better conditions for drift improvement this year. However, I am also going to give credit to farmers and applicators in the state for much of the improvement. In my opinion, if they had not stepped up, we would not have improved.
A lot of people, including me, spent a lot of time last winter on education and regulatory programs that would fix the problem and yet not cause undue hardship. Hopefully those helped.
Only a small part of the proposed glyphosate program was implemented this year. Much of it was bogged down in bureaucracy. Hopefully it will grind on through.
Perhaps the part of the program that was implemented for this year raised the awareness level. Perhaps the 10 mph wind restriction kept some from spraying. Perhaps the increased civil penalty matrix prevented some from spraying in situations that may have gotten them into trouble.
As much time as we spent at the Plant Board last winter, I would like to think our efforts played a role in this year's improvement. However, I have learned that no matter how many rules you have, it still comes down to the end users making good decisions.
The end users of herbicides are the farmers and applicators. They are the ones who decide to go or not to go when it comes to making applications. When the decision is made to go, it becomes a matter of equipment set up and skill level.
Farmers and applicators this year definitely had an increased awareness of drift out in the field. That tells me there was an increased effort on the part of end users to prevent drift.
I got a few comments like, “I can't get anything put out because all my Plant Board inspector is doing is running around out here with a wind meter.” In those cases I am thinking, “Thank goodness.”
I hope the educational part of the proposed glyphosate regulations will be approved and set in motion at an upcoming Plant Board meeting. They will further increase awareness and skill level. For this year, though, I am giving kudos to the end users. While we may have had a year with more favorable environmental conditions, farmers and applicators had to have played a vital role. I know it sure made my job easier.