Dangerous Dicamba: Why we support local farmers

by Sam Ihm, Promotions Coordinator

What's the Issue?

Dicamba herbicide wreaking havoc on local ecosystems

Monsanto's weedkiller, dicamba, is causing widespread damage in Illinois. Drift from the airborne herbicide has ruined millions of acres of crops - including unsprayed fields, eradicated by the flying poison - and damaged oak trees in numerous nature preserves, including Funk's Grove just 10 miles south of Bloomington.

Retired biologist Lou Nelms has documented the damage to historic oak trees, whose leaves showed tell-tale signs of weedkiller damage. In Iowa, there have been over 1,000 complaints this year of oak tatters, where oak leaf tissue becomes deformed. Many believe dicamba or a similar herbicide is to blame for the condition of these trees. It's important to note that these are just the cases that were noticed.

Dicamba has become Monsanto's centerpiece after years of Roundup application resulted in resistant mutant-weeds. But the "technology" tends to evaporate and become airborne, its next victims subject to the direction of the wind. Farmers and researchers alike report more instances of plant damage than any year in recent memory. But Monsanto maintains its innocence, suing against a proposed ban on dicamba, disallowing research on the chemical, and shifting blame to any number of unlikely, less obvious causes.

Why is it Important to the Co-op and our community?

It relates directly to two of our ends:

  • The Co-op serves as an educational resource on food issues . These issues affect us all. Dicamba has likely even affected farmers that sell to the co-op, so this is community education.
  • Our local food system is equitable, robust and environmentally sound . That's what we strive for, so...
    • If a farming practice is poisoning people and plants? Not equitable .
    • If the food is grown with harmful inputs? Not robust .
    • If these industrial farming operations that use dicamba don't have cover crops? The herbicide remains in the soil, either to drift off or become part of next year's crop. Not environmentally sound.

The dicamba issue is also important because it underlines the importance of knowing your food .

The co-op provides a marketplace for local and healthful goods. One of the many reasons we support local farmers is because of their proximity to us. It sounds obvious. And it is! If a farmer is also your neighbor, they are accessible. You can ask them about their practices. If you can't ask them yourself, you can find out from us. The co-op makes it easier to know your farmer.

When you know your farmer, you know your food. You know what's in your food. The farmers who provide us their produce put their hearts and souls into each day's work, in the fields and on the drawing boards, where they decide how, and not just what, they'll grow. The how is not just a matter of efficiency. The inputs inevitably become the outputs. When you put in dicamba, well, some of it floats into the forest, and the rest goes into the food it becomes. And I wonder which is worse.