Rep. Smith criticizes actions of EPA in dicamba probe

Thursday, November 3, 2016

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith criticized the federal Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for investigating alleged misuse of herbicides containing dicamba in Southeast Missouri.

"I don't believe the EPA needs to be down here," Smith said before speaking at a meeting of the Cape Girardeau Lions Club.

Smith previously called for elimination of the regulatory agency. He said again Wednesday environmental issues should be handled by the state and local governments.

The EPA disclosed this week its criminal investigation division agents had executed federal search warrants at several locations in Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, New Madrid and Stoddard counties.

But Smith said there is no need for the federal government to investigate complaints of damage to crops in the region because the Missouri Department of Agriculture is looking into the situation.

"The EPA has come in a day late and a dollar short," Smith said.

The state of Missouri has been "addressing it," he said of the herbicide issue.

"The EPA is just coming in at the last minute of the game," Smith said.

Smith said the "folks with the EPA are so far removed from our way of life and how things are affected down here."

The congressman also criticized the agency for not alerting his office to the investigation. He said he and his staff learned of the EPA's investigation through news reports.

Since late June, the state's Agriculture Department has received more than 100 complaints of pesticide drift believed to be related to the use of herbicides containing dicamba.

The complaints allege damage to more than 41,000 acres of soybeans, peaches, cotton, rice and other crops. Herbicide damage also has been reported to gardens, trees and shrubs.

Smith said he believes any herbicide drift was not intentional. The congressman said he doesn't envision someone "would willfully try to ruin a neighbor's crop."

He added, "In my opinion, it was all accidental drift."

Spraying that damages crops already is subject to a fine of $1,000 per field in Missouri. State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, wants to increase the penalty to $2,000 per field for those who spray a legal product and $4,000 a field for farmers whose spraying damages neighboring corps twice in three years.

Rone said earlier this week "probably less than 20 farmers have caused all this problem" this growing season. He said he expects the Missouri Agriculture Department to submit a report on its investigation by next March at the latest.

Rone said some of the herbicide application may have violated federal law. Even so, he said he won't embrace the investigative actions of the EPA.

"I don't like the EPA. I would much rather that the state handle this situation," Rone said.

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