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Documenting Your Dicamba Practices Made Easy

Navigating New Regulation with Agrian

In 2017, Illinois reached a tipping point. The state received 239 dicamba-related complaints from growers observing crop damage from off-target application. The story was not isolated. Many agencies, particularly across the Midwest, experienced the same surge in complaints – but without real documentation the states were at a loss, struggling or unable to determine the cause of each complaint with certainty. For growers, agronomists, applicators and state agencies alike, this became a watershed moment – realizing that extensive record keeping is now the new normal. 

“We hope this doesn’t cause people to gravitate towards pen and paper,” said Joan Vernon, Agrian’s Global Regulatory Affairs Manager, who formerly worked as a pesticide regulator in California. “That is not a long-term solution and is too inefficient.”

Ag software company Agrian is no stranger to helping farmers and retailers navigate new regulations. “Part of the reason I came to Agrian was to help growers find pathways to compliance,” said Vernon. “Increasingly, compliance includes accurate and thorough record keeping, and I believe that Agrian’s tools and services can really ease this burden for retailers and growers.”

From a compliance standpoint, application recommendations from the Agrian system check all the regulatory boxes because they are drawn directly from the industry’s leading database of over 11,000 continuously updated, indemnified manufacturer/registrant labels. If a grower follows the recommendation, they can be confident they are in compliance with the product label.

“In addition to ensuring compliance, the Agrian platform helps you take credit for the good things you already are doing,” added Vernon. “You may be doing everything right, but if your practices aren’t documented, you can’t take credit. Agrian brings all the data elements together so that you can scout the field, keep records, write and receive accurate recommendations, and even map fields so you know what’s around you.”

Protection is another key element. An efficient record-keeping system offers some clear benefits up and down the chain:

  • For selling wholesalers or retailers, maintaining accurate records can keep them in a safe position, knowing they have sold the appropriate materials to a licensed, responsible applicator.
  • For retailers who also offer application and agronomic advisory services, accurate record keeping protects them from the liability that accompanies writing a recommendation or advising growers; they can back up their recommendation even if something goes wrong in the field.
  • For growers, good documentation ultimately serves as protection. For example, if there are drift issues, growers who document can demonstrate to an enforcement agent what they applied, when they applied, and under what conditions based on their records. This may eliminate them from suspicion should someone suspect the drift came from them. Proper documentation can serve as a shield, placing growers in a defensible position protected from unwarranted blame in certain situations.

More on the Line in the Midwest

“There is a lot more on the line now in the Midwest than ever before,” noted Matt Wilson, Product Manager for Scouting, Crop Records & Compliance at Agrian. “The playing field we are on now is much more complex – the chemistries are not easy. Growers and retailers, with commodity prices being what they are, can’t afford to make a mistake that will cause crop losses to them or their neighbors.”

With regard to the changes to the dicamba label, Wilson believes they represent the beginning of a wave of change that will have the greatest impact on growers in the Midwest. In California and other western states, growers have been required for many years to keep detailed application records based on state regulations, so as manufacturers begin to require certain types of record keeping and documentation, Western growers most likely will not need to change their practices much. In the Midwest, however, retailers and growers who are not already rigorously documenting their activities will need to add this to their already full workload.

“Technology is the only way we all are going to be able to meet the regulatory obligations that are being placed on us,” said Wilson. “For example, in the Midwest, in light of the dicamba issue, growers are now getting requests for information about when they start and stop applications, who did the application, etc., and they need to keep track of that record for several years. These requirements are mandated, and yet your standard variable rate software platform from MyJohnDeere or SST doesn’t track that the right way. Growers will need to start looking at a more form-based, tabular software platform to record the information and, more importantly, report on that information in a timely manner when asked. They will need to use different tools than they are used to using.”

Ag Retailers to the Rescue

“For nearly a decade, we’ve realized that our greatest value to our grower-customers is to help them comply with increasing regulations and market demands,” said Gary Silveria – VP Sales and Marketing, Tremont Lyman Group, an ag retailer in Woodland, California. “In other words, we need to help growers stay sustainable, and that includes farm efficiency as well as worker safety, water quality and food traceability. Growers can’t be experts on everything, especially when the landscape is changing so quickly.”

Silveria added that it’s incumbent on the ag retailer to be knowledgeable about and adopt the best technology platform for the job. “Accurate and convenient label checks are obviously a high priority, which is why we initially started using the Agrian platform, but the value goes way beyond that now. The most recent improvements have been the mapping and scouting enhancements, and site-specific dashboards, which we can populate with information about individual grower fields. The dashboard, which is accessible from any mobile device, has become a one-stop clearinghouse for all the information we need to look at on-site. We can share it with the grower(s), so they can get a real-time snapshot of what we are doing in their fields.”

While Silveria believes regulatory requirements make farming more difficult, he sees a silver lining in some of the tools that have arisen to manage compliance—like the Agrian platform. He notes that one report generated from the Agrian system can provide a lot of benefit to the grower and keep them compliant with not only county or state regulations, but also with downstream processors. It gives them a convenient way to evaluate their uses and ensure everything is within standards.

The Agrian platform is making it easier for Silveria, and retailers like him across the country, to guide customers in all aspects of their business, particularly when it comes to the record-keeping process and staying compliant. “It’s up to us, the ag retailer, to help our customers with their business, so they can concentrate on growing crops. It’s one more thing off their plate so they can focus on the business of making a profit.”

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