To say that a shortage of Newpath early into the rice growing season was a frustrating thing for a lot of people would be a gross understatement. I spent one of the most intense weeks I can remember as a weed scientist taking calls and doing what I could to help — and I was just one of many.

Every rice farmer in Arkansas should say a huge thank you to the Arkansas State Plant Board, the University or Arkansas, and the EPA for putting the things in place to let industry work its way through this issue.

I normally do not do a lot of name-dropping in an article. However, a lot of folks deserve some special credit. When the telephones went nuts and BASF confirmed the problem was real, the Arkansas State Plant Board’s Chairman George Tidwell, Director Darryl Little, Pesticide Division Chairman Mike Thompson and his entire staff, along with Bob Scott with the University of Arkansas stopped everything they were doing to devote total effort to the problem.

The EPA essentially said, “Whatever you need, we are here for you.”

It was quickly evident that an emergency had to be declared to allow other brands of imazethapyr besides Newpath and other brands of imazamox besides Beyond to be used.

Because it was uncertain how much Pursuit was available, the Plant Board also looked into the availability of generic imazethapyr brands. It was learned that Albaugh, Inc., could make its product, Thunder, available in very short order.

BASF said it would do everything possible go get Pursuit and Raptor into Arkansas as soon as possible.

The Plant Board was able to get the crisis exemptions for Pursuit, Thunder and Raptor processed and signed by the EPA in a day and a half. The announcement letter by the Plant Board carries a statement that the use of Thunder on Clearfield rice would be a violation of the grower’s agreement with BASF.

Big shipments of Pursuit are reportedly on their way. While the Crisis Exemption provides a label for Thunder and product is available, it is uncertain at this point whether it will be sold on rice due to Clearfield agreement issues.

Hopefully, however, we are well on our way out of the shortage problem.

I would like to comment on the bigger picture of shortages. Even before the Newpath shortage, we were hearing Clearpath was sold out, Facet was sold out or in short supply and fungicides of all brands were going to get short. Through the years when I have heard sales reps report with great pride “we are sold out,” I would think, “Seems like you left a lot of business on the table.”

It seems as if “inventory control” is the priority, and that it is more important for companies not to carry a gallon or pound of anything over rather than insure adequate supply to loyal customers whose livelihoods may depend on it.

If we run out of fungicides, it will be a crying shame. This is by far the most expensive and one of the most difficult rice crops farmers have ever tried to make. We always have disease pressure, and farmers deserve to have the fungicides needed to protect their crops.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com